Ed Note: This review was written before Layabozi went on hyiernation as some few other articles that will be publish during the next days.
S L V (Some Late Visitor) is a joint project between the producers Hamacide and Downstate. It is eerie and phantasmagorical electronic music. An EP came out before the end of 2012 as a preemptive antidote to holiday cheer.
Hamacide is from the East Coast of the US, Atlanta and New York, and has been here in Shanghai for around two and a half years. His most recent works are a remix EP for Ziggurat Records, which we wrote about here on Layabozi in October and another EP, “You Me” featuring ChaCha on vocals and a variety of remix producers, including Downstate.
Downstate, a British producer who mainly hides out in his bedroom making lots of weird music, put out Farewell Static earlier this year (one of the year’s best), as well as another longer work last year, For You There is Something. There have been other bits and bobs on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. When I asked him in an interview what he was up to these days he said, “Making more SLV for a live set we can roll out in 2013. Finishing up the music and logistics of two Downstate EPs that are coming out early 2013. Other than that, just working and sleeping, man. No time for much else!” One gets the impression he’s a worker.
The two began collaborating without any real sense of direction, just a desire to make something together. They began sending snippets of tracks back and forth that slowly evolved into more finished pieces with a similar style.
The pace on most of the tracks is methodical, with lots of room for tricked out hi-hats and slick beats. Their vocal samples have a high sense of drama, the most terrifying being on the song “Killers”, an affected snippet of hip hop flow that is truly chilling. I heard Drunk Monk rocking a souped-up version of this song in Beijing Dada over the weekend and it was startling.
Another song that really stands out on the album is called “Lovin U”. The beat and the bass line are spastic. Other sounds call to mind an archangel playing didgeridoo beside a haunted swamp. All of a sudden, the mood changes and we get a robotic, hypnotic brass section from a doomed future orchestra. Other sounds recall phone key bloops from a nightmarish payphone. The line has been cut. You start to scream and nothing comes out. You wake up and all that’s left is the terror’s distorted echo.
I asked Downstate about making this song: “’Lovin U’ was an interesting one. I had this sample of the vocal (don’t remember where from) and I put [down] the synth. It sat on my computer awhile until Yusuke got somewhere with it. Then it came back and I made more and it rolled out to be one of my favorites, too. Gear-wise, well, we share the session in Ableton, as it’s easier (we don’t like to work in the same room). He’s rocking some guitar and a Virus synth sometimes; I’m using mostly soft synths, a few old Casio keyboards and an old Roland synth.”
My favorite track on the album is called “Toi”. It’s a ghostly echo of a murder suicide pact, only the beat is more banging. There is also a sound that reminds me of a racecar being driven by a decapitated man.
Here’s what Hamacide had to say about that one: “I believe I might have started this one, but I also remember that Tom had a snippet of a track going on that fit the key and tempo. I think we somehow combined the two to make it work. We rep the South with the samples: Crime Mob and, also, Miss Mac. I think there is also a falsetto sample in there that Tom put in there…I’m not sure where that’s from.”
The album has a pace and atmosphere that is conducive to a lot of ideas and emotions. I started thinking about Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”, a line from which S L V takes its name, while I was listening over and over. One of the stanzas mentions “nepenthe,” an elixir that acts as an antidote to sorrow, anti-depressant. Its main indication is forgetfulness. It was first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and has been thought to be many different pharmacologic remedies, including opiates or marijuana.
Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer/ Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor./ “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he/ hath sent thee / Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!/ Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”/ Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
Nepenthe, or any agent that causes forgetfulness, is not an antidote to sorrow. It is at most a temporary alternative to sorrow. The sadness still lives, but it is pushed away for a time, banished to a temporal corner of the soul. The true antidote to sorrow is confrontation, a jagged mirror, the battling of phantasms that make us weep and cower.
What would you call the opposite of nepenthe; something that makes you brush tears aside and fight back against grief?
Well, you might call it the S L V EP. These pieces are fierce in their dedication to the war between opposing selves; those that ignore and those that implore. Terrifying vocal samples, unsettling synths, and aggressive beats struggle against each other throughout, tearing through the gauzy layers that obscure reality.
It is impossible to listen to this album and not feel something. And whatever you feel is as much an indication of your own worldview as that of the musicians. It’s a dark mirror that has arrived just in time for the holidays.
S L V are currently working on new material and a live set.
You can download the S L V EP on the Urban Waves Bandcamp Page