Review: Josh Preston – Exchanges 1-4

According to its maker, Exchanges 1-4 is “the sound of trade, exchange, interrelation and operability”. There’s a sense that, more specifically, the EP references the machines and mechanical process that reside within these concepts: the initiation of action, reactive consequence, and the resulting progression. Factory sirens and beeps set heavy clunks and repetitious, skittering machinery routines into life, while warmer dashes of synthesiser act as the slightest fleck of humanity on the surface of the EP’s industrialised core, acting like the increasingly insignificant human operator that oversees the clinical electronic processes.

With opening track “Exchange 4”, this sound isn’t quite as convincing as it could be. It falls rather indecisively between man and machine, and there’s too much warmth seeping in between the piece’s intermittent jump-starts of beeping robotics and misplaced glitch – deliberate or not, it seems to be an introduction to the individual elements that comprise Exchanges, prior to their fusion into a singular unit. Things pick up considerably with the remaining three tracks, as not only do they feature the release’s most compelling evocation of mechanical procedure, but they manage to express a fascinating narrative in doing so. Pitch and pace escalate as the machines move between new phases of production and progress, as Preston manages to introduce subtle variation into the sound without conveying human intervention – the presence of man may linger behind the album’s ideas of “trade, exchange, interrelation and operability”, but the machines at the forefront are charged with communicating them.