29 September 2015

Robert Logan - Flesh

I like people who forge their own path in this world, musicians who are doing interesting things just because it is their compulsion to create their own art.  If I was to name all the bands and artists on this review, then it would seem a little unfair on the artist in question.  Back in 2009, I first heard a song by Robert Logan called "Accurate Spit Boy" which was taken from the album 'Inscape' (our review cleverly linked here) and since then I have been loving he subsequent releases (the free download Yik Yik and Extasis EP (both of which I will have to review)).  On the review of 'Inscape' I lamented that this wonder, strange artist would sadly only be heard by the few and not the many as I found that release to be a joy, but I was frustrated that it might only be heard by hipsters.  However in 25 September 2015, Robert Logan has finally released the follow up to 'Inscape' in the form of 'Flesh'.  Now that cover is certainly a treat for the eyes, it grabs your attention straight away which will be half the battle for a casual music lover.  But what of the music?  Well, I will be lying if I was expecting anything other than fucked up noise; so let us see if my assumptions are correct.

Starting the album is "Spirit Wars" and from the beginning you are in for an abrasive treat to challenge your soul; the sound is akin to a cross between The Bug and Aphex Twin, all sliced and diced with a sound the Robert Logan made his own on 'Inscape'.  The menacing and deconstructive nature of the song is held together with a simple melodic string riff that loops around as the rest of the instrumentation goes for broke.  The first six minutes of the song are as aggressive as anything that I have heard this year and equal any challenging music that I have heard this year.  Throw into this mix those ambient sections like the calm waters of a pond where a monster hides beneath the water, then you have the combination for a curious and interesting opening to an album, the ending minute is all atmospheric noises and strings which keep the listener on their toes for the next sideward motion; nothing is forthcoming at that juncture, but it is still a tense ending to this interesting number.  "Phrack" is the second track which comes out with a little bit of an alternative dark 80's vibe to the beginning of the song, the base section of the tune is a simplistic bass repetitive rhythm that is looped throughout the song and would have been something that could have graced the more out there parties during the late 80's as the rave scene started to take a grip on the world.  What makes it stand apart is what else is added to the mix, which is some harsh electronica noise to keep the listener guessing what is coming next.  In the same vein as "Spirit Wars" it starts off with the basic structure of the song and slow but all so surely, sounds and noises are added till you get a similar come down section at the end where you are expecting another noise attack that does not appear.  "Viker Raver" is the third track from this album, this song is not easy to like from the beginning and that is not to say it is not enjoyable.  The song is a dark, aggressive, haunted number that goes on attack mode from the opening dark synth noise, it does not stop for a moment and keeps attacking the audience in subtle ways till the ending of the song.  Once again, it does bring to mind other aggressive dark ambient acts; but this is his house and he is making this his own.  Not easy at all, but highly recommended.  "Lenticel" is a wall of noise that is sadly far too short, two minutes of atmospheric feedback and drone which I would have been expanded for a hell of a lot longer. Far too short, but brilliant - absolutely brilliant and hinting at something apprehensive to come.  The buzz of "Lenticel" continues in "Vespine Domain" which is another slice of dark electronica that makes me wonder why it was not combined with "Lenticel" in the first place to make one piece instead of two perfectly good pieces that are natural companions.  I know "Lenticel" has the long quite moment before the end, as if there is a pause for breath just before the next bomb drops; but that still would have worked to the greater advantage.  Anyway, my lamenting about this aside; "Vespine Domain" is another harsh and damning piece of soul tearing, mind crush electronica that slices into the brain and does not take any prisoners.  It is brilliant and could have been so much more, this man knows how to fuck with people's head.

"Solanoid" is very minimal at the beginning, the percussions are aggressive as usual, the noises sound like insects are swarming around the room, every now and then you have a high pitch whine that sounds like a large explosion has gone off somewhere and your hearing has been fucked - but without that loud explosion - and all the while there is a bass section that is holding everything together just so everything else can go off the wall.  It has natural peaks and troughs throughout the eight minute plus as it is not all attack, so you do feel that every now and then that you are given a chance to breath.  The organic nature of the song is beautiful and hypnotising, one of the best moments of the record.  Following on is "Goose Chatter" and it is in an unenviable position of following on from such a high water mark; it is almost relaxing in terms of this album, you are hardly attacked at all on this song and it is very straight forward.  It is not a filler track as it is still incredible interesting, it is just a calmer and less intense number compared to other pieces on the album.  "Straighten" is the eighth track on the album and the aggression is back for this number, the percussion is back to an intense and aggressive drone is the centre piece of this song.  The main thing about this song (and this album) is the organic nature of the music, the growth of the song is beautiful to behold.  It goes on the attack; it does sound like a swarm is coming in to attack at various points and then coming out to get ready for the next attack, once more another number that solidifies this album.  Next is another brief interlude called "Dendrite", it comes across as a modern take on a piece of music that would have been found on an old Samurai film - mostly a scene where the warrior was mediating before the final battle to avenge earlier wrong doings by the obvious bad guy.  It is a perfectly formed piece once more, it is another piece I would have loved to have seen extended - but it is still beautiful constructive and executed with precision.  The tenth track on the album is called "Playground" and it starts like the beginning of a horror film, you can imagine an empty playground as the opening credits are showing with this haunting track over a scene of apprehension and suspense.  It is another number that is laid back in places, but that is only in terms of this album - if you played this next by itself, it is subtly aggressive once more.  Playing next to the rest of this album, it feels almost laid back.  But once you are focusing on the number itself without the rest of the album, you are thrown into a world of dark ambient noise that makes the spine shiver with fear and dread. 

"Photovoltaics" in contrast is akin to being smashed in the face for four and a half minutes in a row, no relenting, no remorse and certainly no let-up from the opening beat and synth.  It is the sound of nightmares forged in the real world and it is out to fuck you up, from that opening moment its confrontational demeanour is apparent and you are not give a moments rest throughout the track.  I think that is why "Playground" was beforehand, just to give you a rest for this head bashing number - wonderful.  "Cyber horn" is the next brief song, it is another track filled with unease and tension for the two minutes that it exists in the world.  I know it I keep using the word swarm, but it sounds like a thousand insects are running all around you as a unearthly horn is played in the distance.  It is also the only number on the album where I cannot decide if I love it or hate it; it does not grab me at all, but it is still interesting - file under WTF.  The penultimate track is called "Glad Centipede" and the insects are out in force on this number, any resemblance of a normal track is lost from the opening moment which is all out attack from the world go.  It does have moments where you can pause for breath, but these are mere second before the next burst of electronic noise is launched at you.  Not one ounce of space is given up to the listener, it is aggression incarnate and it is beautiful.  Music like this is meant to be challenging and this is certainly one of the most abrasive pieces on this record.  Ending the album is "Transfigure" which is the polar opposite to "Glad Centipede".  It is the sound after the war has finished and the noise is still reverberating around the world, it feels like rain has been pouring down for days and everything is calming down and it guides the listener down after one of the harshest albums of 2015.

The best way I can describe this album is to compare it to a broken mirror, it is not a perfect piece and it is not gentle on the ears in any way, shape or form; that is not the aim of this record.  Like a broken mirror there is a beauty to this in the fractures, the abrasive natures of the breaks are stunning to behold and give the object something that it would not have had before.  'Flesh' is a strong, stunning record that is easily one of the most challenging records that you will hear in 2015.  It is not an album that some people will be able to understand, I get that; but I implore people to listen to this record as it is an amazing record.  Not all music is meant to be safe.....

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Solanoid

You can purchase 'Flesh' from Amazon here

You can purchase 'Flesh' from the Slowfoot Records Bandcamp page here

You can purchase 'Flesh' and other releases from Robert Logan at his Bandcamp page here

Here is a link to the Robert Logan artist page on Slowfoot Records website

You can follow his activities on Facebook here

You can stream 'Flesh' on Spotify here

You can stream 'Flesh' on Deezer here

You can stream 'Flesh' on Tidal here

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