You have to be in a certain state of mind to appreciate Elbee, the solo project of Lloyd Barrett, a state of mind that I was certainly not in when I was driving to the Happy office today. Sober, sleepy and not as happy as the blog’s title suggests our employees are*, his EP Visions of Vactrols obviously required some sort of drug to be ingested before I could experience it properly.
The best release you’ll hear all week? Melt your brain down the digital rabbit hole with Elbee’s Visions of Vactrols.
Lacking the proper ingredients and ingestion paraphernalia required for a vast majority of chemical experiences and having to adhere to the social norm of not consuming any considerable amount of alcohol before midday, I’ve had to make do with some good old caffeine. Two short blacks down and I was ready to take another shot at experiencing (perhaps not understanding) Barrett’s visions.
Roulette Smoke Roll instantly introduces a dripping, wall melting acid vibe – not of the lysergic variety, we’re talking the style of house/techno music. Very fast filters bubble and crackle in the foreground, melding ideas of melody and percussion into one, the whole sound approaching a jungle of synthesised jars, offtime melodic licks and bubbling potions. Every sound seems to hit you from around a corner, as if Barrett had somehow modified a cathode ray tube to shoot little rays of noise onto a bent glass screen.
Mute Hatch‘s insectoid sounds hauntingly buzz around chopped up mortal vocals, although the remains are so battered from whatever intense mixing experience they’ve gone through they could very well not be human vocals at all. As soon as everything seems to be run smoothly (if not strictly rhythmically), we encounter some sort of blue screen of death – the sound locks up, stuck on a digital repeat, looping and spiraling into a panicked abyss.
As if to pander to this generation of late teens (or perhaps reflecting his own experience), Elbee then leans on the phrases all HSC students now need to be familiar with – dystopian, artificial, verisimilitude, duality. The multitude of voices, the deep, dark sequences and pounding, decaying atonal kicks on Finger Nail Flam bring up the imagery of attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion and C-Beams glistening in the dark off the Tannhauser Gate.
Zeldomeld then battles with the other side of our warped idea of the 1980’s – drawing on the screaming synthesisers and blistering square wave melodies reminiscent of Lazerhawk or Mega Drive intertwine with a digitally smoothed woodwind. An east asian influence reigns throughout, but this becomes most apparent in the calmer moments of Zeldomeld, one of only two times I’d ever describe the album as being beautiful noise.
A ticking grandfather clock heralds that the hour of Elbee is drawing to a close, and by this time we have come to expect the unexpected. The track called The Indexilarm Dimension delivers exactly what a track called The Indexilarm Dimension should – weird, weird shit. That is, until we come to the second time the record is beautiful. The ticking syncopates into a beat, backed by atmospheric, evolving tones and a soundtrack-worthy string section.
So, in my caffeinated state of being, did I understand Visions of Vactrols? No. Did I enjoy it? Hell yeah I did, and I am going to enjoy it again next time I get the chance. Perhaps the greatest power of this EP however is the convoluted nostalgia it has aroused in me.
It takes me back to studying Blade Runner five years ago in High School, back to first discovering the weird and wonderful world of Seekae a few more years ago, and strangely also back to the dark electronic soundtrack of Parallax’s Decent. Come to think of it, forget Elbee. I’m gonna go fuck up some rogue PTMC robots in Decent tonight.
*relax Alex we all know you’re a miserable sod. But sure let’s talk about you for the whole first two paragraphs of an EP review. That’s exactly what every artist dreams about when they think of their debut magazine piece.
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