In Of Habit and Dane Law’s ‘Empty Gesture’, grubby slices of synthetic drone slather over globs of gristly noise, ready to be punctuated by cut-up spoken-word fragments. At times a torpor-ridden kick drum attempts, vainly, to cut through the greasy fog. But ultimately the slow heave absorbs everything into its grey sublime.
Occasionally, this fantastically uneasy soup resembles the synth diatribes of Bletchley’s Bad Body, whose ‘Do You Know I Live‘ offers a similarly magnificent outpouring of droney bitterness. But in place of the careworn monologues that make a Bad Body record so compelling, this duo prune their vocal utterances back to the barest of bare essentials. The result is a set of fatigued koans in which a single, enigmatic phrase brings a wider emotional state into focus, whose effects are duly amplified by Gary Myles’ (Of Habit) soft, tired burr. “It’s just an assignment of meaning … a supernatural ability to understand new measures … a battle unfinished …. protests erupt again,” he mutters in ‘Supernatural Ability’, as pinprick percussion and squidgy electronics veer queasily behind him.
It’s hardly surprising that the eight cuts of ‘Empty Gesture’ are so well put together. Myles is a key member of Spoils & Relics, who have form in stitching together abstract noise sculptures of the highest quality. As for Dane Law – Adam Parkinson irl, people – well, he may not quite have such a venerable discography as yet. But you need only to sneek a listen to his great collab with Rhodri Davies or solo outings on labels like Genot Centre, Quantum Natives and Conditional to get a feel for his precisely-calibrated creations.
Naturally, synergies abound across ‘Empty Gesture’. ‘Disconnect’ beams half-step burps through snowstorms of shortwave fizz. ‘Revamp Intact’ lays snooker hall clunks and snaps against springy clangs, as Myles grumps on about inverted realities with exhausted disdain. Things are at their gnarly best on ‘Laid Out’, where iron lung hisses and boot-on-the-skirting board thumps soundtrack the impressionistic ramblings, as disjointed as the voice notes of some dishevelled paranormal investigator, face down on the floor, eyeballing the infinite through a hole in the carpet.