Existing in the weird hinterland usually reserved for Aphex Twin on his more ambient trips, Elite Barbarian make uncomfortable, synth-infused landscapes which encourage paranoia at least as much as they do the urge to relax.
Opening with the jittery, awkward, bass-heavy soundscape of ‘Going down’ the album sets out its stall at the arty end of electronic music while the resonating bass drags you deep into the grimy heart of the track. ‘Less words’ is an altogether trippier prospect housing an almost soundtrack feel (albeit a soundtrack to a horror movie rather than Harry Potter) which slowly fills with abstract sounds and interference. It’s a brief track which leads quickly into the chiming ‘woods’ which is closer in feel to Radiohead’s hypnotic experimentation on ‘Kid A’ although shorn of Thom Yorke’s high-pitched whine.
One area that can cause problems for instrumental, electronic music such as this is that it can outstay its welcome or run rapidly out of ideas. Happily this is not the case here with ‘Tropic’ (a positive epic at 7 minutes) reintroducing the monumentally heavy bass amidst cut-up sounds and sub-industrial elements that grate and score the senses. ‘shore’ is totally abstract, with disjointed piano drifting through a haze of echoing noise. It fits in well with the album, but lacks the interest of the previous tracks and ultimately detracts from the overall flow of the album. ‘soft Remind’ however, gets things back on track by returning, vaguely, in the direction of Aphex twin territory and enveloping it in the bass of the devil, which slowly slithers to the forefront obliterating everything else. ‘Clips’ is one of those tracks that is just cool because it is – jumbled bass and noise bouncing through the speakers and captivating the listener – it’s totally nuts and all the better for it, as if Elite Barbarian have let their control slip and are just having fun. ‘Constant interference’ is a brief glimmer of light that dissolves in static (as the name would imply) before ‘trust is important’ drifts gently through the speakers once again immersing the listener in bass.
The final track – ‘Let’s go back to Morse code’ does exactly what the title of the album – “it’s only when you get to the end that it all makes sense” – suggests by wrapping the album up in a warm cocoon of soundtrack noise that is part ambient noise and part Blade runner. It’s an endlessly inventive work that closes proceedings on a high and draws together all the varied and unusual aspects of this challenging release before disappearing back into the ether leaving you wondering where the last hour has gone.
Elite Barbarian make boldly artistic music that is for a select few. Too challenging and disparate to be dance music, too synthetic to appeal to the average rock fan it’ll appeal most to collectors of avant-garde music (ideally on vinyl) who will go a bundle on the deep, hypnotic bass and unusual elements thrown into the mix – certainly fans of Warp records crazed output will be in heaven! Overall you’ll know from the influences listed whether you’re going to be a fan or not, but for those who enjoy something truly different this is a rewarding listen.