[Peak Oil; 2019]
Five minutes downed like a large glass of incredibly crisp water. That’s opener “A1.” This track, like the seven others on Vol. 2, sates cool and smooth in its neat, five-minute-long container. The eight five-minute-long songs on this album’s self-titled precursor, released via Peak Oil in 2018, were made by what’s described as “a set of software strategies… captures and edits of various nonlinear sound-systems, shifting conditions, and reactions to internal changes.” Vol. 2 presents another group of these mysterious “software installations” for our pleasure, within their necessary temporal frames, across their range.
The collection’s more uptempo tracks — the aforementioned, very giddy “A1” and the lush, loosey-goosey closer “B4” — both bookend and offer tools to better experience the rest. “A1” starts suddenly with a fizzy beat and those sound-systems’ other spawn dimensionally arranged to delineate points in a huge, sculptural space. Some sounds feel dramatically close; some, almost fantastically, far away. All are perpetually in motion.
Some could be yours, like a clicking jaw; some could be kind of yours, like water moving through the cells of your house plants; some are not yours, like an overheard phone conversation on the street; some are perpetually but barely there, like cars crawling on a not-too-distant highway; some are actual figments, like the understanding that there are worms turning through the soil in the park at the end of my block and in others across the world. That’s what’s evoked: a sonic situation of hearing and registering and vibrational re/occurrence day-to-day in surround. Things feel totally alive, lived, polluted, spontaneous, intrusive, visceral like that. By the time “B4” spins around, we’re reminded that these are songs to urge deep listening and also bodily movement, whether that’s at a swift or snail’s pace.
The sandwiched tracks are more slow and silky, deceptive, arousing, even erotic. Super airy voices, more figmentary in the bookends, whisper close in “A2” like blown kisses. The whole track summons the sensuality of hot springs, all flushed cheeks and droopy eyes. Five times, or more, I trancily tap back to hear “A3” before feeling able to move on. Five times, or more, before I hear that track’s desperately sexy voices pleading “Baby, don’t go.” Are they speaking to one another? The song itself? To me? Who knows? I don’t want to.
All I want is its bass that drops like my chest at the mention of your name; the lively sonics of “A4” that pop up out of that spring, bubbling, or is that mist rising up from a sewer?, stones, yonder, quivering, carved-in, rolling on the surface from a roiling in the dirt, clay, wet, clattering pebbles, dry, wavering fronds, burrs, moths, minks, months, email reminders, mudslides slipping by new-growth grasses and soft grey flowers, waterless in the window, crunched, dug-up roots that can wilt a whole garden, prickly, liquid bodies in which a bather, or a microbe, turns through the wind, below the sky, neighbors with arms growing branches and energies arriving too close and far off, over the gate, inside time, under the skin, all of which is seen in a photograph held up to a mirror in a film three times reversed.
Each track fades out at what, most of the time, feels like an arbitrary cutoff point, but it’s actually a bit before five minutes. Even while the B-side presents more rhythmically linear and slightly more structured tracks, Topdown Dialectic still chooses to fade them out rather than end them in any strict way. Developing amidst perpetual climax, the songs still have to finish somehow, which is why I think TD picked the time constraint. It feels like a necessary way to stop the pieces from continuing to aggregate and communicate and travel beyond any comprehensible form, which they surely would, if left to go and go, on their own accord I’m understanding based on that vague description of how they were made. They have some kind of autonomous life and it is Topdown Dialectic’s task as the maker to keep that in check for themselves and each thirsty listener.