It seems hard to believe that as little as two years ago the phrase “post-dubstep” was still a legitimate way of describing the melting pot of genres that went into cooking up music from the likes of Mount Kimbie and James Blake. The phrase seems to have fallen out of usage in favour of the even less descriptive term “bass”, but then part of that may simply be down to a move away from the mercurial nature of those early days towards weightier, more linear techno and house, the rampant experimentalism of Blake and his associates seemingly falling by the wayside.
Partly because of these developments, Rob McAndrews – otherwise know as Airhead – seems like something of an anomaly in the current landscape. His previous singles for Brain Math and R&S both showcased a heavily textured downtempo sound with live instrumentation which seemed very much influenced by his early collaboration with the aforementioned Blake, and it was hard not to feel that by the time his R&S debut Wait was released earlier this year that this kind of sound wasn’t already somewhat dated. It’s for this reason that the two tracks that make up his latest R&S release come as such a welcome surprise. In short, “Pyramid Lake” is like flying a hang glider navigating an obstacle course of tornadoes and rising thermal currents; between the shuffling hi-hats, tumbling snare fills and only the occasional woodblock snare, it’s difficult to discern a kick drum anywhere, constantly fighting an internal battle between cyclonic radiophonic textures and stray samples that sound like they’ve come from old lounge records. At one point a sample plays that sounds like it was lifted directly from a degraded Twin Peaks VHS playing “Laura Palmer’s Theme”, sucking you out of the maelstrom and into a tape saturated headspace, before climaxing on a battery of degraded percussion.
“Black Ink” replicates this same energy reaction with a more barebones approach; the drums sound like they’re tumbling down the stairs in reverse, all accented with breathy vocal gasps and a melodic interlude that sounds like the incidental music from a Japanese RPG. Like the productions of Hessle Audio’s secret weapon Joe, there’s a self-conscious eccentricity that will put some people off, but for those willing to see past the tongue-in-cheek weirdness, these tracks contain probably the most adventurous take on the 140 template anyone has produced for quite some time.
1. Pyramid Lake
2. Black Ink