ALARM AV002 LP (2013)
Why does everything sound so ‘hauntological’ these days? Take ‘Fog’ – the opening to ‘Hello’ – in which wibbly-wobbly hills of dubby bass are spooked by a warbling whine, fuzzed-up and visited by vintage movie samples that speak of ‘fog’ (though a tad plosively on the ‘g’, leaving me to wonder if I just heard the f-word). It sets the ghostly tone for what’s to come, and though not an unwelcome tone by any means – possibly a little closer to the faux-naiveté of the much-missed Plone than the now well-ensconced Ghost Box stable – the preponderance of such music over the last few years renders increasingly familiar that which would be ‘eldritch’.
To be fair, the designs of Lord Tang – one Dominic Cramp, of Gigante Sound, Evangelista, Vulcanus 68 (etc.) fame – are on whimsical interpretations of his cherished ‘Golden Age’ dubs, and the tracks comprise a diverse set of variations on this variable. Matters quickly mutate out of hand – cobwebbed and lead-footed one minute; agitated by an obsessive organ dirge the next, suggesting that deep troubles weigh on the mind of Count Dracula. Ever longing to change the mood, the closer the needle moves towards the spindle, the more whacked-out things become; the darkness delved more deeply, but with an ever-present playfulness that keeps Lord Tang clear of Demdike Stare’s obsidian murk.
Side B is b-side version time, in a manner of speaking. It’s more muted and melancholic in manner, as side A’s rolling bass is skeletoned; foregrounding and freeing delayed and delicate instrumentation (including melodica, organ, dulcimer etc.) from the supporting role, while lending an emotive (if remote) air at times, like King Tubby hazily remembered on Vincent Gallo’s ‘When’. There’s a great sense of space throughout, as though the audio fog of these nocturnal wanderings were in fact slightly sedative. And – just as judicious in duration as it is sparing in ingredients – the ethereal melodies each dissolve into the invisible without ceremony or warning, like the passing of a dream.
It’s a charming record, quite unassuming, and at just 200 available copies, its low profile is more than just an audible feature. Kelly Porter’s sleeve artwork is a bit of a tie-breaker: displaying a vivid range of autumnal tones that enrich the abstracted topographies of a hidden season. Rendered in innocent, ‘I could do that’ pen-and-ink lines, these graphics are as ambiguous as the music, looming like benevolent but unnamed entities from the hidden world of Arthur Machen. One for twilit Sunday evenings.