Electronic music producers aren’t precious about keeping their medium clean and intact. While few films are shot through a muddy lens and books tend to be printed on clear white paper, musicians are happy to subject their compositions to destruction and distortion, leaving something mangled, limping, but often engaging. There’s a power in that deterioration that can be seen everywhere from William Basinski’s Disntegration Loops to today’s glut of lo-fi analog house records. Everything that lives will one day fall apart, and it’s powerful to hear that represented in our art.
French producer Somaticae, who has here donned a new alias as Roger West, doesn’t go as far as some have in the mutilation of our beloved sound. But this EP’s title is something of a mission statement. His sound isn’t lo-fi per se, though it does have traits in common with the recent output of L.I.E.S. or Opal Tapes. On these inventive tracks some colours are allowed to bleed through, ghosts of dance music’s cleaner, pop-leaning siblings left to pick their way through the murk.
While there might not be a clarity to West’s sound, it can certainly be found in his vision. These sounds are corrupted but sacrifice neither force nor catchiness. It’s a triumph of execution. Moldy House opens like a horror movie, wisps of melody half-seen fleeing through trees, before a heavy stomp and pitch-shifting vocals far beyond recognition introduce the main act. Synths are deoxygenated, clutter gives way to silence, only the kick drum is privileged with regularity and resonance. When even the 4 / 4 fades, the disparate melodic elements kick out, lost, before they too dissolve.
West isn’t content to let one sound do the talking. Each of the EP’s four tracks offers a fresh perspective on his mud-spattered sound. Washing House is the busiest, its rhythm an endless spin cycle, whirring synths and even a desperate saxophone dragged into a nightmarish vortex. Here another striking outro, the sound pans out like water sucked from a drain, and after a moment’s silence a manic fifteen second coda of lunatic brass and wildly filtering synths, a musical death rattle.
Soaked House takes the energy down a notch, its wandering melody unbound by a kick drum, subjected instead to dramatic descending toms and hi-hats like razors. We’re even given an emotive coda for the gorgeous finale End House, where a fleet-footed piano line dances in and out of a cloud of sonic debris, joyous in its moments of clarity, melancholic and distant when it is concealed. It encapsulates the pleasure of this EP; that clattering distortion can make us want to dance and feel, that even through destruction we can find light.
1. Moldy House
2. Washing House
3. Soaked House
4. End House