CD: Hive Records HIV.12 [2004]

Auditory Arms              
Parallel Grounds
Systemic Ressentiment              
Lucid [Down the Rabbit Hole]              
Attention Deficit Disorder              
Consciousness Creeping
Auditory Arms [C-Drik Remix]
Cartesian Doubt
Convergence [Subskan Remix]              
Plastone Ground [Kotra Remix]
Rue de la Fée Verte

WIt's not often that you hear something that's so innovative it sounds almost entirely novel, almost totally devoid of obvious influences, to the point of being a new form without a ready frame of reference. Of course this feeling is always illusory, and indicative of a lacuna in one's own knowledge and experience rather than a genuine fracture in the musical lineage, but certain artists - Merzbow, Autechre, Skinny Puppy and, well, Stockhausen spring to mind - have a knack of eliciting this kind of response, although ironically it often seems to develop in the mid-late career stages. I hope Duncan Avoid are suitably flattered by the comparisons, as this album is only their second and is a remarkable piece of work. It is the kind of album that makes you wish your stereo was better, unless you have impeccable hardware, in which case you will wish that your ears were better.

It might be said that Duncan Avoid's sound is a kind of breakcore, but it only bears as much resemblance to the aggressive, mashed-up drum'n'bass that often goes by that name as Aphex Twin's 'Windowlicker' does to house music or Jeff Noon's "Pixel Juice" does to science fiction. Arrhythmic rhythms start and stop according to some invisible plan, while atonal tones roll around the frequency spectrum, clanging off each other resonantly and causing disturbing disharmonies where they overlap. Snatches of melody escape from filters that open and close with a malevolence of their own like gaping maws. Sometimes ('Plastone Ground [Kotra remix]') the beats are hinted at, implied by the edges of the other sounds like the bust of Voltaire in Salvador Dali's marketplace. Other times ('S.H.I.F.I.') the ambient sounds spring from the percussion like synaesthetic colours around a hallucinating drummer's sticks.

Occasionally (Convergence'; 'Attention Deficit Disorder') the sounds take on a kind of electroacoustic quality, with the timbres and tonalities of real instruments hiding in the mix in an unexpectedly disturbing manner. I am convinced that Duncan Avoid are using some fairly cutting edge sound production techniques - spectral synthesis, granulators, that kind of thing - as some of the noises that escape from the speakers (Cartesian Doubt') make no sense in terms of substractive models and would be nightmarishly complex to coax out of a network of FM operators. But I digress. The process is unimportant; as Autechre used to say, you can make anything out of enough sine waves. The net result in this case is something like taking a lysergic journey across an inexplicably-familiar alien landscape in order to find the sublime in the grotesque. Bon voyage.


[Duncan Avoid] / [Hive Records]

Direct Link: http://www.auralpressure.com/review/d/duncan_avoid_metaphysics.html