“Luke, take off that thing on your neck, your sweater, your t-shirt (if you want) and play some good music we could dance to. Whitebox Stereo, Gates, Melody 120, On Tuesday, We Are Made Of Glass, these kind of things. How long will you be playing this vegetarian music?”
This rather misguidedly snippy comment is lifted – bar some essential formatting work – from the YouTube comments on Amphis (Live), the promotional video for Luke Abbott‘s sophomore album, Wysing Forest. For some strange reason, Border Community‘s artists come under assault by fans wanting them to re-tread familiar ground ad infinitum. Imagine a world where Holden only trotted out variations of his landmark The Sky Was Pink remix, or Nathan Fake never graduating from the Boards Of Canada gone techno of Outhouse. It sounds good on paper but is the equivalent of eating three meals of steak a day; it loses its thrall.
Still, if there is an insistence that Luke must operate within a set of crowd determined guidelines, then skip straight to “Free Migration“ and be done with it. Managing to capture the essence of everything that was superb about Holkham Drones in one track, it is classic Abbott and the peak of the album. With that, It turns out that peak is an appropriate word to describe Wysing Forest, as it builds to that crest and then slopes back down to its finale, like tracing your finger from left to right over the cross section of a mountain from a childhood geography book.
After “Two Degrees” sets the tone with frequency drone, “Amphis” proves to be even more enthralling in its album form than the live showing, growing like a sunrise from spluttering arpeggio into enveloping synths, whose metronomes contrast and dance. With the rising sun shedding light over the landscape, it transpires that this is no earthbound locale. Unfurling appears to dominate the stage, looming with the menace of Forbidden Planet’s iconic monster from the Id.
Then we summit with “Free Migration” before a descent into shadow through the bleep techno of “Highrise“, its frozen reverb outro forms the first part of following track “Tree Spirit”, which in turn morphs into the bubbling percussive synth and drone of “The Balance Of Power“. “Wysing Forest” then closes with a beautiful reprise of Amphis’ pads, a moment you are roused to experience thanks to the rasping noise of “Snippet” that precedes it.
From listening to the album, you can hear the “let’s just make some sounds” approach Abbott took when presiding over the Wysing Community Arts Centre sessions, and this is the joy of hardware synthesis. Put aside any notions of snobbery or pretentiousness, the fluidity of manipulating sound in real time creates music that flows and surprises, whereas the two dark bands of breakdown that permeate standard electronic fare is rapidly becoming stagnant. Rejoice that this is not Holkham Drones elaborated and relish its place in history, Wysing Forest demonstrates that Luke Abbott can spectacularly defy rather than exceed expectations. If this is vegetarian music, then we can only hope that others follow suit, abandon their carnivorous instincts and embrace the mighty and varied vegetable.
1. Two Degrees
4. Free Migration
6. Tree Spirit
7. The Balance Of Power
9. Amphis (Reprise)