Exhilerate & Disgust
Australia’s Eugene Nesci’s debut LP as vProjekt, released last October, was preceded by a pretty busy 2011 schedule. There was a cosign from Johan Van Roy, a teaser EP, and a full remixing slate, including two mixes contributed to last year’s Applied Structure In A Void, Die Sektor’s criminally overlooked (even by us – we misfiled it as a 2010 release while doing our year-end business) sophomore disc. That Nesci appeared on that record, which did an incredible job of exploding the harsh EBM conventions Die Sektor had previously traded in, was perhaps a canny bit of foreshadowing. While Exhilerate & Disgust is positively steeped in the history of electro-industrial, it’s far more interested in undercutting convention than paying homage, a risky move which pays off remarkably well.
Exhilerate & Disgust‘s modus operandi lies in touching upon just about every familiar trope in the electro-industrial catalog and estranging it. The sounds of innumerable bands and sub-genres all bubble to the surface at different points, only to vanish just as quickly or be shown in a new light thanks to deft juxtaposition. “Terraform” does an aggrotech fake-out with acidic vocals and way-up-in-the-mix drums (albeit at mid-tempo), but consistently cools things off with a sparse, echoing lead left to stand alone. The fantastic “Splinters In The Frame” calls to mind Puppy at their most emotional (say, “Cult”), but sounds utterly contemporary in its instrumentation. Closing track “Wake” starts out like a classic Klinik cut, all wet, ominous loops, before rapidly blooming and compressing in a melodic flash, and then rebooting itself using a completely different shade of menace which sounds wholly Nesci’s own. Crucially, though, this approach never comes across like referential pastiche for its own sake. There’s a strong sense of pacing, aural space and dynamics to this record (it’s also far slower than most records in this field allow themselves to be nowadays), and each unexpected turn feels more like a case of “right tools for the job” than a showcase of influences. The 12-track (!) bonus disc A Beautiful Reprise balances out the grinding darkness by dishing out some more clubbish fare in some nice beat-oriented instrumentals (“Taste” and “Breaking”) and a favour repaid in a solid remix from Die Sektor, amongst others.
Clocking in at 75 minutes over 15 full tracks (nearly two and a half hours if you include the bonus disc), Exhilerate & Disgust seems to be practically begging for the “too long, too bloated” tag, and yeah, given my druthers I might cut a few tracks. But this album is about nothing if not constant excursions down roads less traveled, convention be damned, and that sort of recklessness is exactly the sort of thing electro-industrial needs more of. Some of said experimentation is a mixed bag – the rich, almost martial plucked string arrangement on “Splinters In The Frame” works great, the extended drum breakdown on “Rely” not so much – but it never falls victim to programming by rote. That terrible prescience which formulaic records give you – knowing exactly when a drop is going to occur, of being able to hum along with a chorus you’ve never heard due to its similarity to the previous track’s – is mercifully absent.
That said, for an album which has no problem changing up tempos, arrangements and volume at the drop of a hat, Exhilarate & Disgust‘s harsh vocal style does get a tad samey. It’s perfectly serviceable on the whole (plenty of bands haven’t deviated from said style for a decade or more), but when paired with tracks which are constantly taking gambles, one can’t help but wonder how more of the clean vocals which appear on the title track (or the nicely phased melodic ones on the chorus of the straightforward but excellent “A Kiss Between The Eyes”) might have added some further nuance. A couple of the pads and drums sound a bit thin in isolation, but they’re usually up and running in an interesting direction quick enough that there’s no real concern (that others sound far deeper suggests that Exhilerate had a long gestation period). Given the choice I’d much rather a debut record show some desire to experiment with form and convention and worry about polish later than the other way around. Also, the press release notes that Nesci completely eschewed sampling on the disc, and when that and the range of structures and moods the album covers are taken into consideration, the odd rough edge is a minor gripe.
While it doesn’t really sound much like them as such, I can’t help but think of Interlace while listening to Exhilarate & Disgust: it’s “difficult” music in the best way which occasionally meanders, but on the whole stretches to the breaking point boundaries all too often left untested. The phrase “promising debut” has almost been emptied of all meaning, but while it holds up here it shouldn’t be used to foreclose what’s already at hand for the sake of the future. Nesci is definitely onto something, and while Exhilarate & Disgust shows a young producer capable of striking out in just about any direction he chooses the next time out, it’s also a damn fine record in the here and now.