Missing Organs’ superior brand of gloomy electronics is given an extensive workout on this great tape from Umor Rex, which main man Tristan Bath declares is his ‘Brexit album’. Last years’ Weakness Is A Great Thing hinted at a growing polemical edge to the Missing Organs aesthetic, and Old Speakers expands this with a suite of compositions that set personal disruption against the wider political upheavals of the past 12 months. Narrative and politics are tricky things to pull off in instrumental music, but Bath is canny enough not to over-egg the pudding, letting his music the talking with cuts that contrast claustrophobic low-end dread with more reflective pieces that offer up a more rounded view of living in the world than one might have expected.
At times, the oily sheen of tracks like Blood Factory recalls Massive Attack circa 100th Window (there are similar, if slightly less jaundiced politics vibrating beneath the surface, too), its wailing synths and rolling toms resolving into sleek, bass-driven urgency. Bridges, meanwhile, lurches forward on a bed of fuzzy electronics and snickering hi-hat, with an inside-out synth line whose constant phasing emphasises personal and public bewilderment. Yet the grooves often pull in an opposite direction, even on the glummest tracks, the onward push of a kickdrum acting as a filip to keyboard-driven angst. Hatching 2a is positively euphoric, in fact, with an interlocking, glassy motif humming wildly across a chugging rhythmic grid. And Hamlet Funk serves up a popping synclavier hymn, as if a certain Mr. Wonder had dropped into Elsinore for an all-court jam, prompting a peaceful resolution rather than bloodbath.
Overground Fantasy bills itself as a sonic sibling to Old Speakers, and while both albums deploy field recordings and acoustic instruments as well as synths, it marks out a less cybernetic sonic territory than its digital-sounding relation.
True, the bitmap melancholia of Fog and muttering doom of Helsingør demonstrate the shared familial characteristics between the two releases, but Overground Fantasy is the optimistic younger child, more prone to skittish flights of fancy than its weight-of-the-world blood relation.
So, Rutabaga slithers out in an awkward mess of chorused guitars and stumbling drum rolls, and the title track is a giddy swirl of piano jitters and drum machine snaps that resembles a caffeinated Hauschka performing for a restless crowd of amphibians. Even the wholly electronic Torch exudes a wide-eyed glee as it picks out a retro theme that would be the perfect accompaniment for a 1980s-ice skating tournament. Lovely.