Review: Params – Hydrogen Black

A quick search on “underwater sound surveillance” throws up information on SOSUS: a chain of underwater listening posts used by the US Navy to locate Russian submarines, which used the detection of low frequencies to calculate the positions of submarines – up to hundreds of miles away – by triangulation. I’m unsure as to whether this is the kind of thing that inspired Params when creating Hydrogen Black, but the album certain evokes a sense of probing the unknown; seeking out the source of the aqueous mystery drifting between the chopped up beats.

Much of the sound here takes the form of soft droplets – clear, ripe electronics splashing gently on the surface of the stereo field, rippling in response to the rhythms that bring shape to the mercurial drift. But there’s an obfuscation running against the supposed purity too. Slipped amongst the waves are muffled echoes of distant sonar, or gentle chatters of computer programming code – the captured remnants of underwater sonic curiosity, and the bitcrushed by-products of the subsequent calculation and decipherment. Songs arise as the intriguing juxtaposition between the two – melodic clarity and a sort of masked, timbral uncertainty – with a soft assortment of pops and ticks threading rhythm right through the middle. A gentle and largely uncomplicated listening experience, but it’s not without its secrets.