It’s a miracle that Ensemble 1 are able to stop. Delay Works is an album about repetitious rock minimalism, but also about the inexorable forward drive of the 6/8 rhythm, which lands in the goldilocks zone between downbeat emphasis and the sensation of hypnotically spiralling. The result is ecstatic self-perpetuation; the gradual subsidence of alternative routes, the energetic entrenchment of the same circular path, always back to the start, never losing power. The tracks are ordered by increasing duration and that feels apt. The longer spent in the orbit of Ensemble 1, the lesser the vigilance in tracking linear time.
The sequencing also traces a gradual relinquishing of weight and shape. We begin with the guitar chugs “Distorted Fades”, through which modulations of palm-muting pressure cause the riff to tighten and slacken, with tonality being choked out and cyclically revived. The whole thing has the feel of a stout locomotive churning uphill, wheels sinking into the soft mud, then climbing out as the terrain gets firmer. “Drums & Delay Loops” lifts into cleaner tones, and I had to double-check whether there was a piano furnishing this one – after five minutes the guitar seems to mutate into a sort of Charlemagne Palestine-esque pointer-finger hammering, with delay FX sending each round of the riff into duet with its former self. Actually it’s just the duo nailing that central minimalist maxim, which states that in the absence of continuous compositional progression, the listener mind will begin to invent textural permutations of its own accord. And so the guitar, through an aural hyper-familiarity cultivated over 17 minutes, stops sounding like itself.
“Submerged Harmonics” ditches the drums completely. Tom Way shifts to bass, although the output remains percussive. Some of it sounds akin to the pummelled underside of a floating boat; elsewhere, intermingled chimes evoke Steve Reich’s work for mallet percussion, or Julian Sartorius’ outdoor drumming experiments. The piece agitates in the latter stages, with distortion rising out of the murk, as if Delay Works is preparing to complete its grand arc right back to the start. While the track ultimately opts to dissipate gradually, it's still deeply satisfying to kick straight back into “Distorted Fades” once it's all done.