Review: Heatsick – Intersex

The two minutes of “Axi Zum No” – the opening track of Intersex – makes for an interesting introduction to the album’s atmosphere and aesthetic. Its combination of a wavering, unsteady string loop and Steven Warwick’s half-minded hums bare little stylistic relation to the dance-orientated jams that seize the floor for the two tracks to follow, but the attitude established here feels like a constant throughout the release. There’s a sense of trance within the repetition of the central loop; a desire to coax listener and music into hypnotic unity, building momentum upon the predictability of repetition. Warwick’s lazy hums rise out of this predictability – liberated by the security of the music’s constant, foreseeable return – and dribble out of his entranced, semi-conscious state, both entwined in the music and verging on sleep. Personally I fail to “get” the merit of these two minutes as a piece of music, but the album’s strongest moments seem to pick up on the casual hypnosis that introduces itself in these early stages.

“Ice Cream on Concrete” is the record’s finest moment. Lo-fi calypso beats provide the track’s plodding, clicking rhythmic base (while bringing back strong memories of the lo-fi style presets of my first Yamaha keyboard), leaving synthesizer chords and finger bass to unravel in addictive loops over the top. Its notably retro makeup fades into irrelevance as the groove becomes irresistibly strong, and aside from a few spoken passages, melody modulations and subtle rhythm switches, “Ice Cream on Concrete” is quite content to stay within a static loop for its 13-minute duration. Its predictability gradually lures the listener from self-conscious head-nods into mindless, liberated dance, possessing the same sleepy hypnosis as heard in Warwick’s mumbled vocal on “Axi Zum No”.

“Tertiary” attempts something similar, albeit to less convincing results – the keyboards jerky uncomfortably between melodies and fail to settle, unable to fathom a point of entry within its blanket of keyboard noodling. Meanwhile, “Von Anderen Ufer” casts out the album’s dance connections in a lengthy concoction of pinging lasers, muffled vibrato ghouls and bitcrushed alien chatter. Its accompanying sense of bewilderment is actually quite appropriate – Intersex never latches onto a “sound” as such, so this change of direction feels in keeping with its uneasy indecision – but nonetheless it lacks the primitive connection of Heatsick’s rhythmically orientated pieces. The album fades out on Warwick’s ceaseless babbling; the phrases “gay music” and “music for gays” can be made out in the murk, referencing sexologist Magnus Hirschfield’s work into the correlation between sexuality and music. Much like how Intersex skims rather than penetrates its various stylistic reference points, the extent to which this music/sexuality context is explored is left unsaid. It’s an infectious work at times and a frustratingly unelaborative one at others, but even its supposedly less successful forays feel possessive of a secret that may one day unveil their inner merit.