Xenolinguistics: a dark, expansive vision born from electronics, noise and the dance underground

Masaki Uchida, Xenolinguistics, United Kingdom, Loose Lips LL012 LP / cassette (2017)

With this debut solo album, producer Masaki Uchida announced himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of experimental electronic music. According to label Loose Lips’ blurb for the album, “Xenolinguistics” is an expression of “anger, prayer and sorrow”. I must admit I don’t hear a lot of spirituality or something suggesting a meditative mind-set on this recording but it’s certainly dark and it can be intimidating and confronting at times. At this point in time – the album was released in 2017 and as far as I can see there has been no major follow-up recording – Uchida doesn’t bring a lot that others working in the realm of noise and extreme power electronic / industrial music haven’t done previously; he has no gimmick in the way of an unusual style of playing or self-made instruments that don’t always obey their maker / master. Nevertheless his vision is wide-ranging if melancholy and filled with uncertainty, and his style is clean in tone, clear and sharp, very sculptured yet steeped in atmosphere.

As might be expected of young electronics-oriented musicians coming out of a dance music background with techno and similar influences, this music relies very much on beats and rhythms. Dancing might be a bit out of the question though; the beats and rhythms can be swathed in dark echoing rushes of wash and the music can be very sparse in its delivery. Rhythms frequently give way to eerie sighs and an ambience of alienation. Most tracks are fairly short and out of twelve original tracks, four venture beyond the four-minute mark. This is probably just as well for fairly minimal music based around repeating motifs, whether it’s swirly atmospheric and melodic (a couple of early tracks), gritty (“El Cantare”) or noisy and brash (“Black Puzzle”, “Invisible”).

As the album goes along, the atmospheric swish of early pieces gives away to a more self-confident noise swagger with a greater range of volume dynamics, interesting contrasts of tone and sonic texture, and tense, hard-hitting beats and rhythm loops standing out against dark sombre wash or background. Occasionally the music recalls past darkly ambient / industrial / isolationist acts like Techno Animal and Porter Ricks in its detail, mood and experimental range (which can be considerable). Nearly all original twelve tracks are good though the last couple of pieces “Vftuk” and “Unverified” are ruined by excessively loud pounding beats and rhythm loops that all but drown out the twitter, fizz and lava-flow grit that carry on beneath.

The album concludes with two remixes of earlier tracks “Logos” and “Black Puzzle” performed by guest artists Rico Casazza and T-Scale respectively of the Loose Lips musical collective. Casazza adds breakbeats and violin-like instrumentation to turn “Logos” into a haunting sorrowful piece. T-Scale turns “Black Puzzle” into a harrowing howling techno-industrial monster that transforms into an exploding fountain of quivering animated silicon fury.

There’s plenty on this album that has me thinking Uchida is definitely someone to watch in the future as his career develops. To be honest, I don’t understand how “Xenolinguistics” managed to escape my attention in the past. The album sits comfortably in the camp of extreme electronic / industrial in parts yet doesn’t forget its inspirations in dance music (techno, dub, grime).