On first listen, this seems like a tough sell. A series of austere electronic pieces of various lengths by the London-based musician, often comprising basic drum patterns with occasional bursts of synth noise.
It’s even more stripped back than last year’s Fleshpile Thematic, on Tapeworm, which saw Cornish intoning vocal fragments over long, abstract tones. These too are compositions so minimal that they’re barely there. Melodic and harmonic elements are notable only by their absence.
Yet I’ve found myself coming back to this album repeatedly in the weeks since it was released on the fabulous Entr’acte label. The five tracks have a way of getting under your skin, demanding to be played more. And after several listens, what feels initially like randomness starts to reveal itself as carefully constructed work. Like a rocks in a Japanese garden, each simple element – a drum machine beat, a synth patch or a vocal sample – has been carefully chosen and placed.
Pattern 3, for example, is all crackles and pops, swarming hypnotically around a bubbling drum pattern. It’s fabulous, simple yet incredibly complex in its spiralling motifs. Pattern 2 is another case in point. At first, it sounds like Cornish has set his drum machine running and wandered off. A repetitive beat, nothing else. But it’s a darned groovy one, and as it progresses, it’s double tracked and warped into a flurry of drums. It’s a blurred, trippy vibe, a rushing wave of sound.
But there’s all this silence, too. Each track is surrounded by it, as if they were recorded on a giant plain. Pattern 1 sounds like the slowest techno track ever, it’s bass drum and bad weather rumbles punctuated by what feels like acres – hours? – of silence. I find myself listening to the spaces between the stabs of sound, rather than those sounds themselves. The emptiness seems weighted with aural significance.
The same thing happens later on, with the trebly bursts of Pattern 5. They really are quite ‘ravey’ – as the sound artist Graham Dunning suggested in an interview with Cornish on the Fractal Meat podcast a month or so ago – the bursts of sound enshrouded with silence, almost like a series of builds and drops in a massive house tune.
In the same interview, Cornish shrugged off the notion that there might be any overarching idea unifying Xeric’s tracks. Intuition rather than grand ideas seems to guide him in his creation of new weird sounds. If he’s following his nose, I’m quite happy to tail along.
(Thanks to Boomkat for the image at the top of this review).