Chronic Quicksand Depression Morning
Blackjack Illuminist Records
Alexander Leonard Donat has been a favourite of discerning post-punk and darkwave listeners for some time now, his Vlimmer project standing out specifically for its complex left of centre approach to the genre musically and its rich conceptual underpinnings. The ever prolific Donat debuted his purely electronic side-project Assassun in 2022, working an angle somewhere between synthpunk, the earliest strains of EBM and Neue Deutsche Welle, although sophomore LP Chronic Quicksand Depression Morning shows the project expanding its scope in intriguingly rangy fashion.
The contrasts between Chronic Quicksand Depression Morning and 2022’s Sunset Skulls aren’t immediately obvious thanks to the manic pace and tense desperate pace the album sets in its opening moments. “Excavate” revolves around a glitchy, evolving synth melody that is quickly run through by speedy drum programming, cycling basslines and Donat’s effected vocals, the arrangement constantly in a state of build-up, breakdown or inversion. That sense of never settling in one place for long continues through “Unfold on My Chest”‘s yelping bursts of sound and burbling pads, and “Fear Doubled”‘s strangely compelling oompah-band progression from menace to melancholia.
The whirlwind pacing and constant sense of movement from moment to moment don’t relent, but it’s around the midway point with “The Ivories and I” that the stark emotional timbre of the LP become apparent. That track plays as almost a straight electro-darkwave number, although contrasting it with Donat’s own work in the genre proves enlightening; where Vlimmer approaches the genre from a more musically and sonically rich angle, there’s almost an ascetic sense of sorrow in how plainly his vocal finds its way through the waves of drum sounds and synthlines. No less affecting is the desperate chorus for “Shapeshifters” or the pleading outro of “Joie de Vivre”, although each of those elements exists in stark contrast to its surroundings: the former for the awkward funk of its punchy verse and shouted vocals, the latter for its choppy, propulsive bass and falling-down-stairs breakdown.
How exactly you position Assassun in the broader catalogue of Alexander Leonard Donat’s work is a little challenging – it’s not so far removed from Vlimmer (whose remit has proven rather catholic in terms of what genres it touches on) that it seems like a major departure for the artist, but the often frantic and agitated energy that pervades it is what gives it a flavour unto itself. Perhaps it’s that sense of the unexpected that marks it as the work of its creator, and a notable entry into his ever expanding oeuvre.