Sheffield Psykick Youth Firm: Memories of Occupied Yorkshire


Libertatia Overseas Trading CDr 

These metallic lumps of abstract electronics and grizzling static are mysterious, like misshapen forms rising up from a dry sea in a long-lost Surrealist painting. If, as the title suggests, these are memories, then they’re repressed ones fighting their way to the surface. Enigmatic and uncanny, they should be recognisable, but instead they’re somehow … off, resisting your efforts to make sense of them. From opener Rainphazer’s shifting sands of static, which suggests a crossing over into some new sensory world, these compositions exude strange vibrations resonating at a deep level of the unconscious. Blank-faced figures crying out from the TV in an unknown language. Ghosts battering at the walls of sleep. Intentionally or unintentionally, I’m reminded of the scorched landscapes of David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet. Yorkshire in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, haunted by the spectre of the Ripper and blighted violence, poverty, misogyny and institutional racism. A fallen world, stained with corruption to its core, stalked by horrors nameable and unnameable.

Created by the equally shadowy Sheffield Psykick Youth Firm – itself a name redolent of the era’s most seasoned psygeographickal explorers (or maybe just brainiac footie hooligans) – the album’s eight short tracks avoid any kind of mimesis, instead fashioning grimy and corroded soundscapes, equal parts Radiophonic Workshop squiggle and Throbbing Gristle churn, that act as dark prisms through which to explore the occult history of this part of northern England. There’s no narrative, as such, although occasionally a song title offers hints – Bent Filth and its phased noise surge is a good example. But, for the most part, this is mood music for migraines, the soundtrack to a nervous breakdown. Tubular Bells reimagined by HP Lovecraft.  Check out the swoops and growls of m80 Bat Bombs, simultaneously suggesting a bombardment of fireworks and a visitation from an unearthly hound. Invisible forces. Unseen hands controlling our fate.

While there are some bright moments  – Sheffield Psykick Wavefront is a field recording from some future moorland, full of chirruping bleeps and soft, metallic lowing, the sounds of cyber insekts and android sheep prowling the moors long after the humans have departed – in general, this album is suffused with an almost unbearable sense of melancholy, a kind of grieving sickness that seeps from its aluminium pores. The title track’s glowering waveforms and cooing tones combine to form a kind of analogue lament, a choir of cracked diodes and broken patches, weeping into the darkness. Can the world be as sad as it seems? That phrase is dredged up by Mark Fisher in his investigations into the cobwebbed depths of Peace’s  novels, via Charles Manson and Genesis P. Orridge. Listening to this ravaged, stern, occasionally beautiful album, the answer can only be: yes.




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