(Adhesive Sounds, 2015)
Presumably because I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, The USA Is a Monster, Thinking Fellers Unions Local 282, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band were busy (or, er, defunct), Adhesive Sounds got a couple of relative newcomers to do the heavy consonant and vowel lifting for this split-release cassette. Indeed, Underwater Escape from the Black Hole and Petrified Heart of an Air Whale (hereafter UEBH and PHAW, respectively) do not lend themselves to easy pronunciation if you’re trying to speak fast – surely they’re no Om, Off!, Sleep, or Slint. But what the artists lack in brevity, they make up for in utter stupendousness. Folks, let me tell you, it’s high time UEBH and PHAW become household names. Hopefully one day you’ll look back on this split cassette and note it as a major turning point in popular culture.
See? I’m NOT just here to make stupid jokes about the length of band names! I am gonna praise these two artists’ lack of inhibition when naming their projects though – ballsy. Anyhoo, this split is representational of the latest batch from Adhesive Sounds, the Canadian scamps (who we love, by the way), and is also a high-water mark in the label’s existence. I’ve praised their releases in the past, but UEBH/PHAW is far and away my favorite (but surely not to diminish other releases). Sure, the styles here are right in my wheelhouse – UEBH peddles a post rock/electronic hybrid, heavy on the production, and PHAW gushes monolithic ambient/musique concrète/experimental electronic music in short spurts.
UEBH gets side A, and the more the songs progress, the more I shake my head in incredulity – their awesomeness astounds. Their first of two six-plus-minute tracks, “All the Little Cares Fixed” begins unassumingly enough, with samples and static, but it soon finds a rhythm built around more samples and a deep pulse, a comedown track for, you guessed it, an undersea rave. A synthesizer introduces euphoric leads, which gradually build to euphonic chords, and ends on the most peaceful run imaginable. I want to listen to it again. Too bad I have to move on to “Stable” … no, wait, “Stable” is just as remarkable, again opening on a sample and shifting to synthesizer washes. Here, though, instead of wandering a deep sea dancefloor, UEBH channels the synth shoegaze of M83 (or, maybe more precisely, Jatun), and by its halfway mark we’re awash with color and texture. It is unrelenting for its remainder, and the pulses underlying it serve as endorphin injectors on every beat. I was too quick to not want “All the Little Cares Fixed” to end – I would have missed the sheer power of “Stable.”
Side B is the murkier of the two, with PHAW’s minimal aesthetic a marked counterpoint to UEBH. It begins with “Relics from Another Realm,” essentially a treated thunderstorm caught on tape, underscoring the ominous turn we’ve taken. It sets the stage nicely for “Kwantum Jool,” a darkwave lurker in shadows, a creeper around corners, and a … hider in attics? I dunno. It’s the closest PHAW comes to a song here, as it has the most discernible rhythm on the side, but the static and thunderclaps appear throughout. It begs for the remix treatment (I can think of a few people whose hands this would be perfect in – looking at you, Herwig!), and acts as an anchor for side B’s more abstract pieces. Speaking of which, “Dimensionality Is a Function of Consciousness” and “Lying Reflection” are each two-plus minutes of synthesizer and sampler craftsmanship, both moving through palpable spaces in their brief runtimes and imbuing a sense of solidity to their surroundings. That is to say, I can touch the tracks in my mind! Or something equally preposterous.
I realize I just pretty much described each track, and I hate doing that, but this split totally takes me places – there’s not a single moment where I’m not transported to another miraculous dimension here. Fortunately UEBH has a deepish back catalog (mostly on Noisey Arcade’s bandcamp page) to mine while trying to figure out what to do next with myself. (PHAW’s catalog is sparser – hopefully that will change soon.) So kudos to these two charmingly monikered artists – their joint efforts have resulted in a consistently exciting whole, something the split format can’t always promise.
RIYL: M83, Iambic, Jatun, Gatekeeper, Microtonner