Central Processing Unit

In 2012 I had the pleasure of reviewing Cygnus’ Newmark Phase, the first release from Central Processing Unit. The label has since made a big auditory and visual impact on the city’s musical landscape, with the distinctive design and sound aesthetic they’ve kept up across all releases also applying to their Computer Club showcases.

Newmark Phase was a stormer of a debut, a varied set of tracks from moody dub techno to playful electronica, all united by the fuzzy organicity of his sound, a result no doubt of the limited tools approach that recording on an all hardware set-up entails. Tesseracter is a similar affair, with perhaps an even stricter stylistic framework, as almost every track fits firmly into the electro camp here.

Yet within this there is room for experimentation and each track has its own character. The transition from the unnerving labyrinthine opener ‘Escher’ into ‘Video Games’ is a good example, sounding as if it was recorded in the same take. Yet within 30 seconds the music slips into a woozy realm of warm poly synths and vocoders that could be straight out of Dusseldörf in the 1970s. This ‘live’ element adds a distinctly human unpredictability to affairs, with entry and exit of loops, dynamics and filter adjustments skillfully manipulated on the fly to make the music really breathe.

The more regular tempo and rhythmic style on this release means that it doesn’t quite reach the peaks of Newmark Phase in terms of pure emotive impact, where standout tracks such as ‘Bedroom Activities’ were more self-contained. But as an album taken as a whole, the progression here is flawless - a satisfying if edgy adventure through a richly textured analogue world.

Ben Dorey

Keep your eyes peeled for a CPU Records treat in our November issue…

Various Artists

Hyperdub 10.3

It’s notoriously difficult thinking up an intro for any album review, but on this occasion one’s thankfully landed in my lap more or less fully formed. Several years ago I was pootling about online in the early hours of the morning when I landed on the comments section to Burial’s ‘Night Bus’. Some well-minded chap had posted the eye-opening assertion that if you loaded up ‘Night Bus’ in one tab and ‘In McDonalds’ in another, magical things would happen. It worked. Granted, it’s just a case of playing two layers of ambient, beat-less wash over each other, so avoiding ear-wrenching clashes is fairly inevitable, but the results were nonetheless doubly gorgeous.

Why am I boring you and frittering away Now Then’s column inches with a late night stoner tale? Well, man, both of the aforementioned tracks feature on Hyperdub 10.3, the ambient, atmospheric third instalment of the London label’s tenth anniversary compilation series. As with the two Burial cuts, the focus across the assembled material - both vintage and previously unheard - is on the spaces that Kode9’s imprint inhabits away from the dancefloor and, as with the previous two compilations, succeeds with impeccable precision in tying together all the different strands that have made Hyperdub such an enduring and vital label.

While the typically sombre, often beat-spurning likes of Dean Blunt, Inga Copeland and Laurel Halo are all present, the ambient-leaning offerings from the usually more frenzied DJ Earl, DVA and Ikonika reflect an underlying fluidity and versatility to Hyperdub’s overall character. Such broad-minded invention has served them well over the past ten years and can’t fail but to hold them in good stead for countless more.

Jack Scourfield

PC Worship

Social Rust
Northern Spy Records

Social Rust seems to be billed primarily as a new turn toward relative accessibility from New York's PC Worship. It's not an unfounded claim by any means, but it's likely to be misleading for the uninitiated. Previous output by the band was marked by a generally grating, aggravating, wall-of-noise sound, the product of various (sometimes indeterminate) instruments intertwining, almost competing for prominence and coalescing into a gloriously cathartic dirge.

So while it's only really accessible in relation to that earlier, more noise-oriented work, things have indeed changed on Social Rust. There is unmistakably a wide range of techniques and ideas here compared to the band's other three albums, or perhaps it's just that the production, although still lo-fi by anyone's standards, has now neatened up just enough to reveal the songwriting's qualities and let the creativity really shine through. In its own strange way, at times this album is even catchy. 'Baby in the Bedroom' consists solely of acoustic guitar and singing (actual singing).

Like the rest of the band's catalogue so far, Social Rust is presumably most heavily inspired by their home city's still-beloved No Wave scene of the late 70s and early 80s, deeply emphasising avant-garde principles of atonality and spontaneity. It's clear that improv must have played some significant part in the recording process, contributing to the record's endlessly captivating and urgent quality. The heavy, gritty and distorted guitar sound, though, in addition to the slow tempos, associate it closely with sludge and doom metal. Eight-minute closer 'First Wave Back' grinds the album to a close with a hypnotic riff that slows and slows before eventually falling back in on itself in a haze of feedback.

Thomas Sprackland

Rival Consoles

Sonne EP
Erased Tapes Records

A mycelium of click track groove swells into fruition to create a trance-like swirl of sound. Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles, returns with Sonne, following on from last year’s Odyssey EP. Moody interludes and swelling string synths are enveloped by cheeky electro blips and pops which saturate the offbeat breaks.

The modestly titled ‘3 Chords’ open with a swooping bass delivery only a stone’s throw from the dancefloor. This swift but smooth race through the mind of a musician creates an enchanting experience. The relaxed and pleasant sensation of ‘Recovery’ soon builds into something more. A funky rhythmic drive gives a framework for crystalline bells to play their smooth and delicate melodies.

The ability to create a feeling of depth and emotive introspection with a chord change is astonishing. With the skill knitted into the formation of each bar, my mind is treated to something unique in the aptly titled ‘Haunt’. It’s spooky but beautiful. Perhaps my inner goth is raising its murky head.

I get memories of Moby with the chilled but slightly frantic undertones. Expert psychology brings music into its own league as my mind is swung from left to right with a pressurising beat of numerical perfection served with a holistic glow. Towards the end of the EP the colours really begin to fly, as although temperate and mild, the passion is in the detail.

As a sculptor of the sound wave and an engraver of the beat, Rival Consoles is defining the term ‘musical artist’ with precision and clarity. Taking care of the feeling of every synthetic note, West leaves no edge uncrafted.

Rowan Blair Colver