When songwriting is smothered in echoes, it’s often affiliated with states of confusion or absent concentration. Precious Systems demonstrates how textural hazes can become agents of conviction. Echo isn’t used to conceal the song within smokes of uncertainty; instead, it pushes the core sentiment outward like a tidal wave, spreading it into a panoramic statement of belief, sweeping me under congregative swells of vocal harmony and white noise and truth. Each thrust of the drum machine hits me like a fist, forcing the bass guitars forward in great surges of melancholy or hope. Yet even the passages without percussion (the fleeting gust of “Second Surface”, or the radiant ascent of “Former Future Beings”) possess a visceral forward drive, with guitars and pianos and voices running into gigantic streams of sound. I am utterly consumed by each of these pieces, yet I never lose sight of the melody within.
The use of bass guitar is particularly striking. The plectrum attack ricochets off the surrounding surfaces, as chord progressions billow and swerve like air rushing through sewer pipes, resonating deeply through the lower levels of the stereo field. Many of the album’s finest moments are built on foundations of drum machine, bass guitar and voice, accentuating the bass reverberations into walls of noise and incidental harmony, spreading the strands of overtone until they start to arc over my head, merging with thin slices of tape loop and amplified dead air. Yet Precious Systems retains its strength even when the bass drops out: the 10-minute “Evencycle” feels reminiscent of Seefeel in its upward current of vocal loop, gusts of keyboard and muffled thumps of percussion, pirouetting into the sky like a tornado, keeping chaotic movement within the confines of distinctive shape. A voice repeats “In Control” over and over again, as the keyboards obediently avoid spilling into states of dissonance or harmonic indistinction. As with the rest of Precious Systems, the dispersive powers of echo are kept entirely under MJ Guider’s command.