So what is it that gives this particular album such a hold on me? I could point to the blown-out bass whoomp of “Bubble Butts and Equations,” or the late night tech-soul of “Get Ohn,” like a house anthem repeatedly re-encoded until that gorgeous forlorn melody buckles under the digital haze, breaking the surface among broken steam valves. Then there’s “Maze,” with its cold wave innards exposed on an autopsy table, its beautifully icy synth backbone glowing under fluorescent light. “Purrple Splazsh” takes cues from the flayed 80s fetishism of James Ferraro, the sample that eddies in its cathode ray spatter so damaged it’s almost impossible to place. “Let’s Fly” plays seance over flanged chords, summoning lost voices as if it’s watching The Disintegration Tapes roll in reverse. “Wrong Potion” may be the most disruptive track here, a chaos of overlapping signals that buckle and flail, picking out the patterns of beauty in amongst the white noise and “The Kettle Men” has mechanist swagger that’s buffeted by ambient gusts, like a cyborg revisioning of Sly Stone’s paranoid funk and one of the most head-spinningly dense tracks Actress has put his name to. Although the album touches on all these styles, it’s unified by a particularly Actress approach, a gloriously off-kilter brand of techno that’s driven by dream logic, like music piped in from a reality where the rules are gradually torn adrift from their moorings.
My favorite albums are ones that work as a whole – that don’t just reflect my mood, but shape it. Albums that invite me to walk into the words they conjure. It’s what I love so much about his masterful 2008 debut Hazyville, but Splazsh is even bolder, more assured, more labyrinthine and occluded. It’s a curious record from a wonderful, idiosyncratic producer, and it needs time and space to appreciate. Walking with it is the most intense, the world around soaking up the feeling it exudes.
Grails - Live at Barracuda (2018)
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