Anyone who has heard the meticulously crafted soundscapes created by Callum Stephen Higgins under his Yes Blythe alias, not to mention the considered resonances of his Swaggerjack duo with John Powell Jones, may find Kinloss, issued under his Maersk alias, something of a shock.The follow-up to last year’s Wolfsburg, the two tracks presented here follow their predecessor’s doom-laden path. Their concrete-slab beats and deep synth drones, all swathed in void-heavy reverb, throw a distinctly monochrome shade in comparison to the subtle shapes and colours of those other outfits. Yet, despite the shadows, there is an impulsive, unforced quality to Kinloss that makes it worth your time.
The gloomy, oppressive territory of ISO 1161 is minimal but impressive, its drawn-out synth chords and occasional kick-drum thuds as stark as some Viking warlord staring out across the darkened bay to see the burning boats of his vanquished foes sinking beneath the waves. The pixels may glitch at the edge of the picture, like Beowulf reimagined for a malfunctioning Playstation, but it’s still a stirring sight. The simplicity of its sonic construction isn’t so far from the the post-punk glower of label mates A.R.C. Soundtracks (whose From A Shattered Beam tape is highly recommended) not to mention the synth and drum machine angst of so many of those industrial bands with their leather jackets and severe haircuts.
Did someone say industrial? In that case you’ll dig the doublespeed percussion assault of ISO 668. Its robot kickdrum and noisy growl lurches in a migrainey rage out of your speakers and proceeds to chase you round your room like your pet cat in crazy mode. Either Higgins is having fun or letting rip with some serious frustration with this driller killer palaver, but it does the job, yammering out its repeating percussive barfs in a way that’s impossible to ignore. Abrasive, yes, and less of a serotonin rush than a Nescafe stomp – but then everyone needs to let off steam now and again, right?