Review: Off World – 1

cst117_1400x1400Not quite. All of my thoughts and attempted articulations of this record fall just short of what I’m actually hearing. As such, it’s important to note that this album manifests in the margins and spaces between the words you read here, floating between colon dots and swooping into the mouth-like voids inside written vowels. It’s not an album of Saharan psychedelia, sprouting out of the earth from a congealment of prolonged isolation and rippling heat exhaustion, bending synthesisers at the behest of material melting points and carrying ambience, shapeless and lost, upon thick winds of airborne sand. Neither is it the music of inner space, skimming the earthly atmosphere as it tries to push away from it, adherent to both the energy of raw human impulse and the desire for transcendent, out-of-body truths. It’s too rhythmic and angular to relegate to subconscious listening; too strange and ambitious in its manipulation of texture to be assigned exclusively to the status of analogue synthesiser nostalgia. 1 is the image in negative; the silhouette the escapes the illumination of misfired understanding, formless but bordered by the distinct, concrete forms of what it is not.

I think “Wonder Farm” demonstrates my point. The electronic drums bring both a fundamental pulse and a chaotic, popcorn-in-microwave ricochet, maintaining cruising speed while swerving erratically. The guitars flit between pitch bends of pure Americana and dissonant interjections with pianos and strings, occasionally freezing into spindles of oriental interplay. “Primitive Streak” suspends a rubberised synthesiser solo upon gusts of Wild Western emptiness, flecked with the ghosts of drum circles and withered ritual. It’s a circular drift of stasis and uncertainty, with every instrument turning to the other textures for guidance and purpose, forming an infinite spiral of subordination and identity loss. Despite how these pieces dwell upon particular instrument configurations for five minutes at a time, it’d be wrong to call them “jams”; such a term implies a descent into greater depths of meaning and player coherence over time, gradually moving into parallel as each instrument learns the behaviours and reactionary tendencies of the others. When these pieces come to a close, I see that they’ve splayed even further apart; like paintings with skin pigments smeared beyond the boundaries of facies, smiles sabotaged into ambiguous gurns and amused snarls. Rather than approaching a state of certainty, these pieces become increasingly aware of possibilities and super-positions that further undermine their faith in the concrete. Just as I find myself compiling misunderstandings about 1, these instruments exchange communicative corrections and responses to mis-hearings, dancing around the state of mutual comprehension in a manner both infuriating and thoroughly delightful.