More sumptuous, reverberant soundscapes from Callum Higgins and John Powell-Jones, whose mix of glittering post-Rowe prepared guitar, analogue synth and tape noise creates mesmerizing, dubby sonic collages. Privilege’s three tracks were inspired by the pair’s 2015 Samarbeta residency at Salford’s Islington Mill. Having locked themselves away for a week of music-making, Higgins and Powell-Jones prepared a single-copy dubplate, which was stored in the British Library. To hear it, you need to go to that august institution in person – a nice trip, although perhaps not always convenient if you have other things to do. Fortunately a similar listening experience may be accessible at home via Privilege, which inhabits a similar sonic space.
The use of echo is a defining trope here. The side-long mantra of No Gods, No Masters deploys pastoral melodic phrases that circle out into space before dying away into crepuscular fades. Woody, rimshot-style clunks add a listless percussive grid, ushering in slow waves of radio hiss and groaning tape loops. The King Tubby-style delay added to everything creates almost tangible wodges of sound, like a vast cavern slowly filling up with smoke or a hypnotic sermon of ghostly sonics. The guitar is a more explicit presence on Serpent, its mess of unholy clangs and rattles existing somewhere between late AMM abstraction and Ex-Easter Island Head’s refined lyricism. The struck strings are as atonal and dissonant as a glass harmonica shattering in slow motion, the balletic twirls of its diamond shards punctuated by the sort of heavy crashes that anyone who’s ever knocked a guitar amp when the reverb dial’s turned up to 11 will recognize. It gets hazier and fuzzier as it goes on, although linear progression is rejected in place of entropic recurrence.
At just over five minutes in length, River of Sin is slip of a thing compared to its brethren. But it’s a doozy, with a squalling whine poking its way through a muted backdrop of electronics that had me wondering whether a time machine had grabbed a young Evan Parker and dropped him off in Salford for an altissimo circular breathing jam. The bare pulsations signal a departure from the signature SwaggerJack sound, but its appearance here is both testament to the elasticity of the duo’s aesthetic and pointer to the invention capable of conjuring endless variety from relatively simple means. A privilege worth checking.