Stuart Chalmers and Michael Rodham-Heaps: Ecstatika


Feral Tapes cassette and download

Master tape masher Stuart Chalmers continues to do great things in this collab with masked synth marauder Michael Rodham Heaps, who usually plays out via the Autotisika alias. Keeping abreast of the constantly-advancing weather front that is Chalmers’ work is the kind of task that usually gives me the conniptions, thus my tendency is to watch the ferric hurricanes swirl past from a healthy distance, exposing my old bones to the buffeting as and when my internal barometer gives me the go-ahead. Ecstatika is one of these occasions, offering up chewy layers of disorderly electronics and deep-tape thrombosis sufficient to endow listeners with enough of a glowing Calpol fug to sweep us through a dank post-Christmas dripfest.

Heavenly Morphic Collider is a hippy-dippy dream at first, slicing away the monochrome prologue and dumping us straight onto an opiated yellow brick road with a Technicolor flume of new age pitch bends and yogic whoops. But, like an incipient headache after the third naughty pint at lunchtime, the euphoria is only temporary and a tramping chorus of dustbin clanks and gastric puff-burps stomps over the limbic horizon to take up position front and centre in our lobes. For the next few minutes, things go a bit retro-machiney, less groovy steampunk than National Coal Board-sponsored family day out – nice – and I’d defy all but the grumpiest of teenagers not to get a teensy bit intoxicated by the overlapping grind of the oily noise lurch. Given how attractive those grimy syncopations are, the segue into a gentle synth and chime coda after just a few short minutes may be a little too abrupt. But it’s a charming comedown nevertheless.

If all that grizzle made you feel like Eric Morecombe after a grey shower, don’t fret. Hux Escapist is here to entice your inner Gene Kelly with its reverse squelches and jumping bean snare snaps. Before you can say March of the Mods, those candy floss synth blobs are back and suddenly even the floor seems to be moving. Bleary electronic stabs knock heads with repeated Wurlitzer chords in a gleeful multiple-YouTube-windows-open-at-the-same-time pile up, and the sensation of a high-velocity descent through a surrealist rabbit hole splats out in tie-dye abandon. It’s a marvellous, pulsating beast and anyone concerned about whether the duo is piloting it full-tilt towards an arbitrary end-point or have simply relinquished control over some generative music cyborg should stop worrying and enjoy the trip. It all calms down soon enough, with another tranquil end-phase that smooths over the cataclysmic bursts preceding it with a few Jedi mind-trick manoeuvres. These aren’t the tapes you’re looking for. You noise musicians can go about your business. Move along now.





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