moduS ponY & VLK: split

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Strategic Tape Reserve cassette and download

Idiosyncrasies abound on this wedge of fabulousness from Cologne’s Strategic Tape Reserve. Release notes suggest (somewhat cryptically) that the two outfits involved swapped sound files to kick-start their creative processes, a step which would, strictly speaking, make this release a collaboration. However, anyone perturbed by the tape’s apparent taxonomic irregularity should be reassured – sufficient individuality remains between its two sides to justify classification as a split. Phew.

moduS ponY’s wobbly lollop takes its cue from the jazzier end of post rock – Tortoise, Isotope 217 et al – but this hardly distracts from the Day-Glo originality of its off-kilter stagger. The tightly-wound layers of these six tracks make a virtue out of flirting with irritation, rattling in migrainey cycles that could well be a turnoff until you glom into their spiralizer vibe.

In fact, the limping annoyance of opener ‘Sans Phosphate’ seems increasingly like a deliberate strategy to force that acclimatisation rather than hanging around until we finally get it. Charting a line from ‘Mirrored’-era Battles back to the bonkers glory of John Peel favourites Stump, the tune hops in ever-deceasing circles of chorused guitar, organ and drums, before climaxing in a chipmunk frenzy of tape-sped warble.

Once you’ve swallowed all that, the rest makes for a more digestible feast. ‘Human Consumption’ has a glossy, looping beauty, its crystalline piano motifs the backbone for mazy guitar lines and a one-note synth drone. The lazy clip-clop of ‘En Route To The Business Plant’, meanwhile, sneaks babbling field recordings and a cute, rubbery bassline in between its equine saunter.

VLK’s contribution dials down the quirkiness in favour of an abstract, synthetic moodiness. That contrast is a relief, to be honest, even if the appearance of an occasional shimmery guitar line (‘Chic Cevapcici’) hints at prior cross-pollination. Mostly, though, we’re in the land of synthesis, with plenty of modular blurts and blips to keep the Eurorack headz happy.

There are a few nods to the dancefloor. ‘Gallic Shrug’ moulds a rather nifty two-step shuffle from its soupy bytes, keeping the boogie going until gravelly swipes and alien hoots dissolve everything into murky splatter.

Elsewhere, we’re in more ambient territory, texture overriding rhythm with lagoons of viscous, spacey drift. ‘Dizzy’ is a real cracker, its gloopy undulations massaging layers of slurred vocals into warped shapes like iron gloves on wet clay. At less than two minutes it’s far too short, those multi-tracked gawps and coos coming on like a barbershop quartet of celestial fairies living their best glee-club lives. Don’t stop believing, people.

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https://strategictapereserve.bandcamp.com/album/split-2

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