Hearing Tim Olive in full flow is like coming across a perpetual motion machine chugging away at top arcane lick. Olive’s deployment of magnetic pickups and analogue electronics often results in a kind of addictive pulsation, an electroacoustic version of the old Neu! Dingerbeat, its fanbelt chug both enigmatic and absorbing. That hypnosis is best experienced on 2016’s 63-66, a collaboration with Ben Owen that doesn’t so much stop time as stretch its own 53-minute duration into an eternal mechanoid heartbeat. In contrast, on ‘False Mercury’, Olive’s interaction with Frans de Waard and Takuji Naka replaces wide-open factory grooves for a vaporous, shifting collage whose shifting vibrations alternate fuzzy, beatific drift with nervy, kinetic eruptions.
True, a good dose of the familiar Olive hustle emerges at around eight minutes, the repetitive clatter rising from the haze like a steam train heard in the distance through a freezing fog. But here the trio is focused on producing a diverse suite of sonic products, rather than zooming in on a limited palette. That there doesn’t seem to be much explicit effort to integrate that material isn’t necessary a problem. In fact, the ongoing frisson of textures and transitions rewards close attention, with abrupt cuts and slow-mo seepage sufficient to keep us hooked on the varied and mesmeric drizzle.
‘False Mercury’ clocks in at around 30 minutes, and while the sludgy gloom and generator hum that kicks things off is atmospheric enough, things really come alive just before the halfway mark. A chorus of springy thumb-piano scatters ruptured melodies all over the railroad scrim, transforming deep listening assignment research into paracetamol-fuelled fever-dream wonder. There’s barely time to corral my sweaty visions of John Fahey on downers stumbling through a smudged Studio Ghibli landscape into coherence before the scene gives way to a grainy tapestry of electroacoustic fizz and reverberant thumps. We’re on the home stretch by now, but the trio stays frosty until the end. Close-mic’d gasmask breath huffs over a backdrop of waspy buzz and choppy prickle, like an in-suit recording of a ramble over the radioactive wasteland. One more blast of full-on interference and the radio finally gives out. You’re on your own now, kiddo.