Spirit Guide
Crime League

Michael Morton is low-key one of the most prolific artists in the Canadian IDM landscape. His capacity for production means that his main project Displacer has had more than a few variations stylistically, with Morton moulding sounds and tools to fit the project’s multiform sound. Spirit Guide is nominally an exploration of some of the less-neon synthwave sounds, although interestingly the EP comes in only slightly left of much of Morton’s recent output. The Chase Dobson (c.db.sn) assisted “Killer” explores gated-snares and sinister looping analogue sequences that do occasionally resemble work by S U R V I V E or Gatekeeper, but the rich pads and deep reverbs of “Visions” and the dubby looping percussion of Snowbeasts collaboration title track sound like pure Displacer. The contrast feels most apparent on the rich opening track “Ectenic Force”, where shimmering leads shoot off over a simple sequence of repeating notes, calling to mind any number of great 80s soundtrack moments while still holding firm to Morton’s own expression of space and atmosphere.

Gnawed - Pestilence Beholden
Pestilence Beholden
Malignant Records

Ah, death industrial. Unlike the more broadly embraced strains of post-industrial music, there’s no fickle hot-swapping of sounds to be found amongst its misanthropic ranks. Fealty to grinding, textured sonic loathing is the tribute it asks, expulsion from dance floors is the tax it imposes, and a marginal yet dedicated audience of acolytes is the remuneration it bestows. These core tenets have given artists like Minneapolis’ Gnawed a clear yet scarred terrain to explore, but can also make the genre difficult to write about. I could attempt to talk about how the dynamic between a pained, metallic squall and subterranean drones on “The River Runs Dry” is key to its unsettling tone, but stuff like this really can’t be broken down into component parts. I could note that Pestilence Beholden tilts slightly more towards the atmospheric, almost ritual dark ambient side of things compared to the last of Grant Richardson’s Gnawed offerings we lent an ear to (2014’s Feign And Cloak), but there’s plenty of aggression to be found in cuts like “Who Shall Reap?”. Besides, if you’re in for a penny you’re likely in for a pound with stuff as grim as this, especially when Richardson knows how to make his clattering drums and heavily processed vocals punch above their weight (and the recurring theme of agricultural desolation is original and welcome). Really, the measure of death industrial is in its effect, and given that Pestilence Beholden made me feel as though I’d had my soul buffed with steel wool for a near hour, I’d have to call it a success.

Chris Randall
Oscillator Breach
Detroit Underground

Chris Randall might be most well-known to readers of this site as the guy behind Sister Machine Gun, but amongst synthheads he’s carved out a niche as a developer of VSTs and modular components with his company Audiodamage. Creating tools to make music and making music don’t necessarily draw from the same skillset, although Oscillator Breach certainly feels like it applies lessons learned in each arena to its six original tracks. There’s a workmanlike quality to the songs here that speaks to a lot of time spent looking beyond surface level interfaces and deep into the guts of the tools used in it’s construction. In some cases this translates into straight rhythmic IDM (like the pleasingly funky and complex percussion on “concentr8”), although there are some moments that feel very distinct from Randall’s previous IDM outings as Micronaut and under his own name. Compare “stylus” where loping drums are set against warm basses and smeary cymbals in a way that suggests future garage to “seven”, which has a very similar set of sounds but comes out in the realm of dubby techno. For all the differences in the styles they evoke, it’s the voice of the creator who acts as acting as technician, artist and producer that ties it all together.