If your main touchstone for the-ever prolific Antoni Maiovvi is as the trend-setting producer who co-founded and helped define sound of the Giallo Disco label, you might be somewhat surprised by his work as Ye Gods. Even those who are aware of the US based, UK born artist’s work in fields as disparate as post-punk (Jason Priest), IDM-tinged house (as Pleasure Model) and banging acid techo (as half of Acid Vatican) might still be taken aback by the esoteric nature of Babalon Works. Despite its apparent dissimilarity to much of his other work, the keen ear Maiovvi has always shown for sound design and construction is at the heart of each of the LP’s abstract and arcane tracks.
The best point of comparison for the sound of Babalon Works might be Coil in their Black Light District guise, a tall comparison to live up to but an apt one given the record’s focus on entrancing, digitally processed loops and chanted vocals. Indeed, the liner notes’ claim that the record is made up of “explorations of PKD’s pink-light transmissions, Judeo-Christian magickal practice and sleep deprivation” seems pretty spot on in the context of the jittery rhythm programming, subliminal bass and spiderweb delays of opener “Remove Your Material Worth From This Earth”. With each track built around a gradual mutation of its key elements (“Like Death’s Head Moths To A Burning Heart”‘s awakening of some ancient machinery via its atonal piano lead, “Gematria”‘s gated and pressed back together pads) the proceedings are both darkly psychedelic and mechanically precise.
The contrast between trippy sample and rhythm manipulation and the record’s considered, almost formal structure is certainly a part of its appeal, with Maiovvi knowing when to let the groove ride and when to let it disintegrate on its journey from speaker to ear: “Xtiana Come Gracefully Back From The Cold” doesn’t stray far from the off-kilter vocal sample and simple filtered synthline that lead it through its spiraling structures, while “Etruscan Idiom” strips itself bare, revealing a hidden skeleton that can’t be pinned in place rhythmically. Through it all Maiovvi repeats phrases both benign and vaguely sinister, sounding almost congenial on the sparse “Arc” or disengaged from the chaos on the manic “Kingdoms.
That Babalon Works doesn’t descend into addled hallucinations for their own sake and keeps firmly pushing forward with an inevitable urgency is a key to its sneakily charming nature; a trip to visit McKenna’s Machine Elves is fine, but an anxious attempt to unravel some big ideas through the lens of insomnia-fuelled delirium is far more relatable to most. Ye Gods takes those big, circular waves of ideas and hammers them into forms that are both functional and comfortingly tangible. Recommended.