Astor is the solo project of Mark Harwood, a remarkable dive into abstraction with heavy intentions. Lina in Nida contains a “proposed anthem for Britain during a potential invasion by ISIS”, which hurtles through a large and threatening electronic soundscape. 400 copies of this LP, on Penultimate Press.
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I have never seen such self-hype as exists within this LP’s press release. Right now, I am apparently listening to a fictional anthem for ISIS-occupied Britain, and the last track promises the best sound ever made or heard. Such statements we are mostly used to, but these enter the realm of madness.
Astor likes to make music as masses. Layering lots of sounds into formless clouds, the synths and field recordings become disconnected from any worldly environment, difficult to pinpoint. The sounds gradually evolve, moving from one textural setting to another almost unnoticeably - ‘The Landowners’ goes through an elegy phase, a factory floor phase, and finally a Tim Hecker-esque subdued melodic excursion, with the final moments holding the first discernible rhythm on the whole thing. Well, I guess that opener had a rhythm too, a basic sequence of some pretty harsh synth layers playing a foreboding melody. That’s the ‘Britain under ISIS’ one, by the way, and you can totally hear Mark Harwood’s paranoid apocalyptic fantasy, as long as no one takes it at all seriously…
Over on the flip, is that piano, heard through a gauze of delightfully vibrating distortion? Well there’s some calmer melody, still pretty paranoid and gloomy but at least it’s still. Ok I spoke too soon, we’ve entered a cosmic torture chamber in ‘Amusement’. Yes Mark, I’m sure you’re amused by everyone’s grimaces when they hear this. This side is much better than the previous, but gets so damn intense towards the end. But wait, we haven’t even heard the best sound in the world yet! 1, 2, 3, play… It’s ok. It’s another atonal spook fest, melodic lines all sliding around in a nail-chalkboard dance. Lina in Nida is a pretty cool album, with a few absurdities and odds-n-ends partially made up for with some sweet sound design.
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