Review: Vapor Lanes – Hieratic Teen

vapor-lanes-hieratic-teen-coverLike dye introduced to bloodstream, the electricity convulsing through Hieratic Teen illuminates every nuance of A. Karuna’s synthesiser circuitry. Low groans navigate bends in long wiring, rattling loose screws and swimming through soldering, bursting through the speaker grill in pressurised jets of electronic sound. Pitches falter during melodies as though the voltage is running slack, alternating between wanes of weakness and sudden surges of catch-up. I can hear the consequence of Karuna erratically turning the dials, plunging into bass tones that cause the synthesiser to splutter and glitch, forcing the instrument to accommodate instructions that threaten to detonate its insides. Noise flickers as it slips down the gaps in loose connections or butts up against bad wiring. Some synthesiser records sever the ties back to their point of corporeal origin; reality becomes eclipsed by the strange, synaesthesic evocations of the mind’s eye. Hieratic Teen is predominantly the opposite. While the compositions themselves are abstract collages of all manner of contrasting fabrics, in the end I see little but the raw truth: the ungainly buzz of interference, the copper rust that eats away at smooth timbre curvature, the LEDs of “ON” buttons and pulsating tremolo control.

There are split-seconds of reality lapse. During the echo-drenched loops of “Mary”, I start to depict the image of a gigantic empty aircraft hangar draped over the pedals and leads, quivering in and out of visibility as crackles spoil the fantasy. And while Karuna’s reverb tends to smear the signal over time rather than evoking enormous imaginary spaces – such as on “Teen”, where the delay trail shrinks and expands in respiratory cycles – I find myself indulging in flashes of dreamt deep space and the crimson yawn of Martian canyons, drifting away from Karuna’s visceral experiment to wield his sound like paint on the lids of my eyes. At these moments, the album resembles a low-budget space travel simulator. For the most part, I can’t escape the truth of my scenario: I’m in a small box on hydraulic hinges, watching computer-generated images stutter and glitch on a two-dimensional screen. Yet if I meet the fantasy halfway, forcing myself to ignore the exposed wiring and technical interferences, I can enter a fiction that rises from the overlap between creative willpower and digital pretending; a fleeting other-world that vanishes as soon as I break concentration.