In ‘Second Saturation’, Kostis Kilymis lays down a suite of rave melters for render ghosts, dancefloor anthems for the shadow world. The key signifiers of club music – kick drum, hi-hat and throbbing, low-end electronics – are drained of their propulsive, hedonistic power, leaving a suite of bleached-out revenants, monochrome snapshots of communal excess printed onto tracing paper. These are fading memories of better times, the joyous lairiness long departed leaving only desiccated remnants, markers of possibilities that have since withered into stubborn exhaustion, leaving us stumbling, zombie-like, through endless corridors as the bustle of the domestic everyday flutters past.
Sounds heavy, right? But what’s great about ‘Second Saturation’ is how Kilymis transforms these forlorn materials into an astringent corrective to self-pity, one that exerts only the lightest of pressure on our burned minds. We’ve heard plenty about how the world is a terrible place rn – and, well, it is, really – but Kilymis ain’t one of those “here’s my modular synth warbling on as a response to general calamity” merchants. It’s not that he offers hope, or even optimism – that would be a bit much. Listening to ‘Second Saturation’ is more like taking a walk along the beach on a freezing winters day. You need a coat, not to mention a hat and gloves. You’ll get wet and cold. You’ll probably stumble through some pretty shitty edgeland topography. But, by the end your brain will be reset, and you might be just about strong enough to face the coming week.
As the follow-up to 2013’s ‘Arctic Saturation’, ‘Second Saturation’ shares much of its precursor’s traits – a fixation with prickly, lopsided drum machines and grumbling, machiney electronics in particular. But there’s commonality, too, with Kilymis’s later ‘Bethnal Greener’ (2015) and ‘A Void’ (2017), predominantly through the use of field recordings to add woolly, hazy textures that balance out the dry precision. He’s not the first out-there muso to do this, of course – it’s the equivalent of shoving pre-programmed vinyl crackle on top of an Ableton beat – but you can put your snark on hold, ‘cos here it’s a deliberate strategy, one that helps Kilymis elevate his records above the chaff.
On ‘Second Saturation’, those quotidian rumbles and shrieks perform an odd play of absence and presence that add to the already-enigmatic vibe set up by his minimal electronics. These field recordings resist the urge to evoke specific places or times, instead summoning up ghost zones that are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. These are sites of busy blankness, of oppressive emptiness and lonely claustrophobia, through which Kilymis’s disembodied clicks and growls travel like slug trails through fog. Uncanny cartography for unknowable territories.