When we last caught up with Volt 9000 we noted how they’d managed to leave behind their more obvious influences, the band having released a hyper-kinetic record with thick, busy arrangements which felt like Cory Gorski and Andrew Dobbels arriving at a sound all their own. Timeshift is no less a mature and unique listen, but it trades Conopoly‘s socio-political pastiche for an inward journey into the psyche, and its dense, stuttering instrumentation for a spectral, ghostly sound which hangs about the listener’s mind long after it’s ceased to play.
Timeshift is far and away the least “industrial” record the band have ever produced. Hell, it closes with a nine minute track which is built almost entirely around acoustic guitar and flute. But those shifts in instrumentation don’t feel like change for change’s sake. These songs, generally longer, generally pensive, occasionally mournful, seem to be calling out for a broader toolbox than Volt 9000 had used before, despite being far more sparse and quiet than any of their previous work. Thankfully Gorski and Dobbels are quick studies, wringing immediate and circling melodies from pianos and guitars (while constructing newly ornate drum parts) for songs which are far more hypnotic than they are hooky. The sparse arpeggios and bass pads which make up the core of the penultimate title track don’t change much on paper, but by fading in and out of the mix they gain an uncanny familiarity. Have they appeared earlier in the album, or have they simply imprinted themselves upon the mind instantaneously? Even when tunes more characteristic of Volt 9000’s previous work are on the table, like squirming opener “Glitch In Time”, they feel stretched, bent, and distended in odd new ways, with space and quiet woven in to allow specific refrains to sink in further.
As Cory recently told us, parapsychology makes up much of the album’s thematic content. But rather than going full-bore Fox Mulder, Volt 9000 adopt a cautious, questioning approach, perhaps not so far removed from Descartes’ line of questioning concerning the deceiving demon. If the mind can be hacked and manipulated – be it by hypnosis, drugs, or madness – how can we trust our subjective experience, or even our own understanding of our own consciousness? “Skeptology” tugs at that thread a bit further: what happens when our pursuit of objective truth, our rationalism, hardens into a dogma just as cut off from reality as any supernatural or metaphysical approach to the world?
It’s those sorts of questions which, especially when paired with the album’s more haunting musical passages, lend Timeshift a presence that can’t easily be put into words or located by triangulating Volt 9000 with other bands. We often like to talk it up when a band “comes into their own”, especially one we’ve tracked for a while. What fans and writers generally mean by this is that a band’s consolidated their aesthetic and potential into a streamlined record which matches up with what we hoped they could be. It’s a far trickier listening experience when a band smoothly and capably steps beyond that frame as Volt 9000 have here. It’s tempting to call Timeshift an “experimental” release, but it’s executed so sanguinely it’d be hard to claim that anything was left to chance. Strongly recommended.