On opening track “Boom Town”, it’s as though Dead Fader (aka John Cohen) works not in sound, but in gigantic bolts of electricity that just happen to be ferociously loud. I feel my head illuminate as buzzing drones ignite inside it, as Cohen orchestrates the noise into rhythms that pump and retract. Huge strands of voltage convulse across the air in my head. The music is danceable, but very precariously so; it doesn’t sit stably enough to let the momentum set in, with beats upturned by bass tones fracturing the earth from beneath. The rest of the album is comprised of these sorts of architectural constructs – great contraptions of electronic communication, sending messages as sporadic throbs and staccato patters – while each blast of electronic bass threatens to capsize the rhythm framework that so precariously contains it.
Yet Glass Underworld is so much more than just an exercise in violent energy exchange. The album is rife with strange glimmers zipping through the wires…little droplets of processed human voice and sombre liquid melody, performing elegant chicanes between the bigger blocks of sound, like ghosts haunting the empty crevices. On “Nine Strokes”, a lethargic vocal moan drapes itself over a squelching beat, as synthesisers splash on either side like the early signs of imminent heavy rainfall. I hear a primal fusion of functional body and thoughtful mind, as the warmth of emotion circulates through a cold scaffold, imbuing each movement with the anxieties and curiosities of organic consciousness. Given that this symbiosis between body and mind has only rekindled significance in the advent of the world’s “awakening” artificial intelligence, Glass Underworld feels particularly timely and particularly beautiful.