Review: Billy Gomberg – Slight At That Contact

sod114_highrezThis is music in a larval state. Through a process of unfurling and awakening, Slight At That Contact exercises all of the phonetic and gestural behaviours that will later be refined into language. Segmented body parts unsheathe to the crack of acoustic plosive, as keyboards gurgle and click like a vocal mechanism hydrated and stretched for the first time. Movements are tentative, pressing against joint stiffness and the uncertainty of nascent life, emerging as hums that falter like drowsy probe signals; the first broadcasts of new-born amplifiers and organs, lubricating dry circuitry with fresh electricity, uncurling from cocoons to let the universe in. Field recordings (conversation, the rustles and clatters of warehouse work, echoes of birdsong) smear the edges of the frame, warped through ears that aren’t yet trained to hear them.

What will the album grow to become? I think I can hear the early stirs of blues: distorted harmonies agitate the overdriven signal, while vibrato sends keyboards into melancholic tremble. For every sound that possesses the kernel of familiar music, there’s another that delights me in its failure and emptiness: a gasp of microphone interference, an incontinent leakage of shrill amplifier feedback, a glitch that stammers over a solitary keyboard note. I love the embryonic intentions of Slight At That Contact, but also its miscarriages of transmission – the occasions when tones are choked into silence midway through announcing themselves, or when the warmth of recognisable notes is shunted aside for belches of ungated static. The album is finding its feet, condensing open drones into communicative shapes, refining gurgles of distortion into phonemes, sharpening the slurs of sibilance into pointed patterns of musical meaning. Evidently, organic growth makes for a messy trial-and-error process.