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- Bytreqw by Scald Rougish
9/10 Ant Staff review, 14 February 2013
'Bytreqw' is the latest transmission from the mind of Chris Douglas (AKA Dalglish, O.S.T, Rook Valard etc.) and his third release for the ICASEA imprint following the breathtaking Auen Ansici / Bardachd double cassette and BnS digital EP. I've been privileged to be in possession of an advanced copy of this for a little while and have been enjoying listening to it immensely. However I've been dreading the moment where I have to actually sit down and write about it, simply because this is music that by its very nature defies definition. It's mysterious audio to say the least and the fact that the artist offers little to no explanation or narrative to his work including cryptic track titles often results in writers failed attempts to translate and articulate the sound (and I'm not excluding myself in that statement). The music needs to be experienced not explained, that's if it ever could or should be? You can't just roll off a string of stock electronic music adjectives at this stuff as it exists entirely in a league of it's own. Over the last year or so I've been pondering why Chris Douglas doesn't get the props I feel he deserves for his work and I've come to the conclusion that he's so far ahead of his contemporary's that most people just don't get it yet. One day the penny will drop. Having said that Autechre and Leyland Kirby have both acknowledged his genius, the former selecting him as the opening act for their 'Confield' tour.
As seasoned follower's of Chris's output will know he is a master of his art, his ability to summon new and hidden worlds through audio as well as articulate deep personal feelings and emotion through the circuits is unrivalled.
When it comes to sound like this words are meaningless but as it's my role to attempt to translate this I'll share with you how I decode it.
The set begins with the harrowing elegiac tones of opener 'FmoAN' and just after I drift into a state of consciousness where memories of a past life are summoned I'm quickly snapped out of it and plunged into a sub-atomic microscopic world where particles collide, rebound off of one another, leaving trails as they crack, fizz, shatter and break off into infinite patterns. It feels like harnessed chaos if such a thing could ever exist. Cranked up loud it sounds fucking immense, like techno from the year 3000. The intensity increases to a frantic peak and then slowly retreats. Is this what it sounds like if you stick your face in a Hadron Collider?
'Begrorl' fully embraces stereo, call me old fashioned but I only have two ears. 5.1 is what the beings with six ears get down to on planet Krull. Each channel has stuttering sequences that sound like they are malfunctioning and could almost collapse and fail at any given moment. Then big old evil Tyrano-bot shows up to the party to tear shit up and his voice sounds like nothing I've ever heard before. I think someone must have spilled his pint because he sounds really pissed off. Despite attempts from droid-hoods to take him down, he wastes them with roars of advanced sound design. This is an amazing piece of electronic music, again with volume really yielding the maximum rewards.
'Spwfa' takes things in a completely different direction with deeply haunting atmospherics that sound like howling winds singing undecipherable words. It has quite a devotional aspect too and is a strikingly personal and emotional piece, it's like the soundtrack to the search for inner peace amongst all of the chaos. If you connected with the deep introspective sounds where the artist bared his soul on 'Bardachd' then you'll be feeling this one.
'Md.Fpj3kr' is unfathomably complex with gurgling fragmented rhythms and hyper unconventional mechanical structures breaking down. It's difficult to grasp how much of this is controlled or improvised and to what extent beyond the initial mathematical input. It's often like the sound of pure electricity has taken over and is working on its own terms, a kind of sonic artificial intelligence. With closed eyes it evokes images of strange hybrid mechanical creatures and from a great height shits on any sound design I've ever heard in a science fiction flick.
'Banaie' is a blackened sound world where I'm in a gloomy industrial landscape where the machines are waking and there is no place to hide. Once captured they perform clinical trials on my brain as can be heard on 'Msksnp' which sounds like what I imagine electrons in the human brain would sound like if someone stuffed a contact mic in there with zillions of tiny electronic signals travelling at frenzied speed. Also worth mentioning is that the machines gradually sound like they're being tamed by a very human element - slow building melancholy tones that suggest melody but never explicitly emerge as such. The conventions of rhythm and melody that are the foundations of "music" or obliterated into a new language. I can't help but feel I'm listening to a one man musical revolution - the orthodox is disregarded much in the same way that the wild free expression and abandon found in the works of radical 20th Century Jazz improvisors like John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Anthony Braxton redefined the possibilities and reality of what "music" could be. The tools are different but to me the outcome is the same. To hear this happening in true future music is very exciting.
'Laihegaine' is an unnerving closer, channeling dark emotions through black morphing drones which dissolve into an endless void.
Yet more evidence that Chris Douglas is single handedly pioneering a new musical language. Absolutely mind-blowing stuff. It doesn't get fresher than this - highest possible recommendation.
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