The first half of this unhinged odyssey has the deranged spurt of a synth duo falling down a spiral staircase while playing their favourite polka hits. Around about the midway point, however, someone applies the brakes and it morphs into a queasy soundtrack to a serial killer’s lair, the mouldy atmospheres evoking images of dank basements lit only by flickering laptop screens broadcasting non-stop trash. The whole thing is as disconcerting and exhilarating as a CD-r grabbed at random from the merch table at a noise gig in the mid-2000s, but which proves to be a portal into a new toxic universe – a feeling boosted by the sharpie scrawl on the disc itself and its lo-fi masking tape sleeve. That it is issued by Intonema, an imprint usually associated with free improvisation and electroacoustic exploration of a more considered variety, only adds to the thrill.
Active for more than a decade, Wozzek is a trio of Ilia Belorukov, Mikhail Ershov and Konstantin Samolovov. On ‘Fact I’, the squad performs an ungainly quadrille between lurching post-rock in the style of Battles’ ‘Mirrored’ and toxic, repressed abstraction that churns like a Throbbing Gristle outtake, washed down with a healthy dose of musique concrete. And, although ‘Fact I’ is Wozzeck’s first release since 2015’s ‘6’, it skews more toward the frantic bash and hiss of 2013’s ‘Act 5’, smearing previously gleaming metallic textures with a carapace of shit’n’giggles and abandoning durational workouts for a concise exploration into aural weirdness.
The tightness of focus is a result of Wozzeck editing materials recorded over several years into a single 37-minute piece. What initially seems like an improvised splurge reveals itself as a meticulously stitched canvas, one which allows its greasy textures to fan out in waves of sonic goo with neither flab nor tedium. The trio’s approach also powers a warping of perspective in that lolloping opening section, like some nightmarish Escher print, their hectic vibrations teetering perpetually on the verge of collapse without ever pitching into the depths.
Less immediately discombobulating is the slow sweep of the second half, yet the cumulative effect is itchy and oppressive. Electronics whirr and fizz over a shifting backdrop of messed-up field recordings. At one point, The Cars’ ‘Drive’ plays over a boomy, echoing PA. Footsteps clonk down a hallway. A crowd starts singing along to something. The banal humdrum of the world continues, outside. But we’re somewhere else. Inaudible. Invisible.