Review: Bourgeois Speedball – Red Threads

red-threads-album-coverI can’t keep up with this. Sounds are flying across my field of hearing: bursts of spoken monologue chopped and incessantly looped, disruptive clangs and rattles of protest, pop songs squished out of recognisable shape, plastic synthesisers coughing and bleating. It should be an unwholesome mess. Yet thanks to the electronic beats running throughout the record’s 37 minutes, Red Threads has anchorage; a central point around which the duo’s inundation of noise and implied political subversion can swirl in breathless orbit. The drums may be crude (dry and untampered clicks and pops, seemingly plucked straight from the Calypso sample pack on an old Casio keyboard), but they are robust. The album retains direction and explicit purpose. Just like the protests from which Bourgeois Speedball derive so much inspiration (most notably in this case, the Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests in the Bay Area back in winter 2014), the turmoil of happening is rooted in a clear, insistent central ideology.

And again, like the act of protest, the objective is simple: seize public attention now through acts of immediacy (i.e. a rhythm that taps into the instinctive desire to dance), and then lure the listener toward the message that whirls around the edges. I slip snugly into the beat and begin to ingest the field recordings and samples that rain down on my head. I hear the smash of bank window glass, as captured on muffled dictaphone. Soundbites that remark on how the unjust actions of authority are concealed through the incitement of squabbling amongst the masses (“The Carrier Bag Theory of Composition/Genderfuck”), or processed voices that firmly refuse the societal requirement for binary gender identification (“I Do Not Identify As”). The snapshotted screams of protesters, rendering themselves hoarse in a bid to be heard amidst the din. A lot of the field recordings are those of collision – the smashing of glass, the crack of struck solid objects – which eternally amplify the act of rejection and forcefully pushing back against the stubbornly immovable, placing innumerable pockets of resistance and interrogation amidst a stout, rhythmically harmonious framework. There’s so much to take in, yet thanks to the beats that run through the album like a steel scaffold, I’m able to navigate Red Threads with the patient delight of a museum visitor, passing from one sample to the next and applying dedicated scrutiny to each.