Review: EXO_C – LABOYATTA

There are two layers to LABOYATTA. First: the electronics. Dry and corroded, clenching and oozing, caked in interference that clings to the surface like a crust of mud and foil. These thumps and hums are the album’s forward thrust, but only just – taking lead from dub’s contradictory mixture of inexorable drive and gravitational paralysis, lurching one step onward with every laboured groan of tone. The second layer is a sort of acoustic volatility; those echoing textures that gift LABOYATTA it’s three-dimensionality, with beeps and hi-hats juddering through metal walls and almost feeding back in the process. Where the impact of the central electronics is direct – channelled straight into my headphones, without even a drip of reverb to soften the edges – these peripheral elements point outward, with percussion shot like cannons into the air and against the surrounding surfaces, enlivening the instabilities in the join between wall and ceiling, rattling screws and questioning the structural integrity of window panes, turning a purely sonic potency into a potentially destructive weapon.

And so the whole album feels ready to overpower its physical confines. It’s like a hulking great Concorde engine perched inside a three-door hatchback, with every convulsive acceleration dislodging another door panel, wielding a power that the poor chassis was never designed to withstand. “Song2” is almost nauseating in its overlay of low frequency drones, each crushing the one beneath it as they pile up, escalating until the surface splits and starts to leak feedback and high frequency squeals. “Up2” starts with the sound of someone metronomically firing off the load of a staple gun, before a crackling loop – seemingly built from a ravaged distorted guitar string, a la the recent acoustic totems of Emptyset – starts to rise up through the concrete beneath, eventually fracturing its own musicality through force. There is always rhythm, and yet there is no invite to dance. Instead, this rhythm feels like a by-product of EXO_C’s singular objective: to work the muscle until it bursts, using repetition make the mechanism stronger and stronger, pushing past the point of optimal potency until the apparatus breaks completely.

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