Somnambule - Writing About Music

Eight Frozen Modules ~ Crumbling And Responding

The cover graphics depict post-apocalyptic scenes: a city burns, cars lie overturned and abandoned while a lone silhouette surveys the desolation from a blackened skyscraper. The back cover zooms out to show the centre of Los Angeles aflame though cars still dot the freeway as if in transit. Wish fulfilment, reportage or near-future prediction is unclear. It does seem, however, that interest in that city’s beleaguered inhabitants and its notorious gang warfare (as chronicled by John Singleton’s Boyz’n’The Hood and Mike Davis’s City Of Quartz) has waned. Al-Quaeda and its affiliates currently monopolise the world’s attention instead.

Crumbling And Responding is a busy, fairly shortlived slice of crunch and squelch. Its ten tracks tweak dirty electro, mashed hiphop, hectic breakcore and plasticised ambient to enjoyable effect. The music is frenetic, incessant and highly synthetic. There are exceptions – Lack Of Nursing plunges the listener into whistling cloudpools whose fringes buzz with electrical charge and Corteme wavers with the sort of chimes nobody would want for a doorbell. Occasionally voices rear up in tormented fashion as though trying to break free from invisible bonds. If You Only Knew concludes the project with hints of a deeper mystery than the frantic contortions that precede it: steely tones whirl and spiral as if emanating from the center of a deep vortex. Eight Frozen Modules seems to be asking ‘is this what lies behind everything?’ This sense of different levels of analysis (zoom, plan and landscape views) echoes the cover art’s differing perspectives.

Perhaps the only disappointment presented by Crumbling And Responding is the relative lack of integration between the sleeve imagery and the titles and music. There’s something inherently fascinating about apocalypse, the breakdown of social order and the like as so many examples across every media attest. Otherwise, Eight Frozen Modules presents a sophisticated ride with more than enough event and texture to maintain attention.
Colin Buttimer
July 2005
Published by the BBC