There’s always been a kinship between classic electro-industrial and IDM that goes beyond shared methodology and aesthetic concerns. Much deeper rooted is a shared preoccupation with the finer details, syncopation (or the lack thereof), and texture borne from literal programming. Slovak duo Disharmony aren’t the first group to mine that territory, but their particular take comes from an intriguing angle; rather than subsuming one sound into the other, their new album utilizes a few carefully deployed elements not entirely native to either to build bridges between them.
The key to the vast majority of the songs on Room 78 is the use of piano sounds, sometimes chorused or verbed, but never at the point of losing their character amongst the synthesized elements. Whereas a song like “Empty” with its processed vocals, chopped-up guitar chug, and plodding drums might seem to have very little to do with say, the buzzy bass and skittering rhythms of the title track, the way the emotive piano they share operates is identical, setting motif and melodic precedent. Sometimes only apparent from the outset, then fading gently into the background (as on “Falling Stars”), sometimes out in front for the majority of the song (“Lifelines”), they’re striking enough that there absence on some songs becomes noticeable, the ear searching for them buried within plinky keyboard tones or slipped between the cracks of a cymbal arrangement.
The other and far harder to pinpoint locus of the LP is the use of vocal samples. Of course there isn’t a more classic electro-industrial trope than lifting dialogue from movies or news broadcasts, but there is a specificity to how Disharmony slide voices into and out of songs, drawing our attention to them so they can carry out a tonal or structural shift behind the scenes. What the voices are saying doesn’t seem as important as the actual way in which they surface or fade away. A song like “In The Shadow” has at least three very different segments, the transition between them covered by a man speaking calmly in English. Similarly, the Individual Totem-esque “Under Control” slips easily between a tweaky breakbeat rhythm and vocoded and distorted vocals, the sample pulling focus just long enough to allow one to overtake the other at the forefront.
These are subtle pleasures to be certain, and while there are a few moments where they coalesce into immediately accessible songs, such as Fractured collaboration “You Near Me”, more often the enjoyment of Room 78 is in the details rather than writ large across its twelve songs. I found a great deal of enjoyment in picking apart the way it transitions between meat and potatoes industrial and winding IDM on “Blackhole”, although to be honest it took me at least three or four listens in various contexts before it was apparent there was anything to dig into. The lack of immediately identifiable songs gives the record the air of sameness, lacking in definition as it progresses. While that might be true to an extent, I advise careful listening; there’s a great deal to “get” here, tucked away between the folds of the fluid and changeable.