A strange place. Still warm and steaming from recent obliteration, buildings in blackened jagged stacks, traces of weird new life squiggling up out of the cracks. It's a bleak scene but offers a kind of wry creative liberation. There’s nothing to lose and no one for whom to keep up appearances. Matt Irwin presses into shrill electronic frequencies, sudden jolts of percussion, the snapping of buckled wood – a set of socially antagonistic sounds in socially incoherent sequences. Then again, who’s left to complain?
Where the 14-minute opener “Burnt Beaches” sit in the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse (the body still quivering, tinnitus filling the ears), tracks like “Color of the Year” are like tentative pictures traced in the ash with a stick, signalling the emergence of melodies to replace those that were decimated. A synthesiser fidgets through an improvised lament, while other electronics babble around the edges in clumsy corresponding dance. “As Kestrels Above A Clicking City” seems caught between demise and regeneration, with waves of dulled static rising toward the spasmodic flashes of birds seen in passing. Birds seem to be a key theme in fact – emblematic of the album’s aerial perspective, absorbing a place in its entirety, driven by the fleeting nature of the now.
Indeed, the past and future on Contemporary Ruin loom large over the thin corridor of the present. Some instruments jolt reflexively with resurgent trauma. Others make shaky, reticent movements out of their refuge in the shadows. Harmonics protrude and rub together, while distortion puts angular dents in the side of otherwise ovular sounds. Everything is damaged or partial, fractured or pre-assembled, beauty undercut, wounds mid-healed. We are stranded here: yet to comprehend the enormity of what just happened, completely oblivious to the outcome of tomorrow.