Bleach by HyperdawnRelease date: October 18, 2019
Label: Them There Records
Whilst we’ve been sat on sofas, sweating out Chinese takeaways and scrolling through a smorgasbord of not-for-right-now options on Netflix, The Salford duo of Hyperdawn, comprised of Vitalija Glovackyte & Michael Cutting (both impressive experimental artists in their own rights), have been busy constructing a palette of sounds that are both intriguingly odd and familiar enough to latch on to with relative ease. They’ve cannily combined warped and grizzled hardware with a swathe of digital production techniques to create this eery and contagious debut that they call Bleach.
And eery it often is. On ‘Millennial Pink’ there is the pulse of a thumbed aux cable coupled with bass blown as if from swollen lips. Glimpsed squares of electronics flash on and off, in and out of time, like a frazzled advertising hoarding scrabbling for power. Glovackyte’s heavenly vocals act like they’re rejecting heaven. Their deep resonance is a rising sheen of light through the rhythmic static. She axes through timbre with ease. Anyone enthralled by the recent work of Jenny Hval or Holly Herndon are likely to find comrades here. Decay & disintegration are key. Their music is the sound of insect life. Brief, industrious, fluttery. Flitting towards flickering tube lighting with haggard and damaged wings.
At times this could veer into club friendly electro pop territory. The components are all there: the scything beat, the skittering synths and catchy vocal hooks, but someone has taken a cheese grater to its chest cavity. Either that or the instrumental tapes have been left in the care of William Basinski and he’s been up to his old tricks with them. The avalanche of white snow never quite sheers through. It is reticent to appear, needs some coaxing. Perhaps a cooed melody or the clap of eroded drums might lure it out. But it never quite snowballs, all that emerges are tiny little cloudbursts of white noise.
And noise is where it all starts. The opener (and title track) begins with a trip through harsh sonic warbles, as if weeding out any pretenders. It reminds me of the time that I saw the artist formerly known as Varg (the Swedish techno musician unfortunately had to change his moniker to Varg2™ after a legal dispute with a fairly pedestrian german metal band) blast out a sea of white noise at Corsica Studios until the pair of coked up city traders directly in front of him chose somewhere else to discuss their negging strategies. Hyper-charged noise. Super drawn out drones replicating the feedback of bursting amplifiers. It’s an interesting gambit by any artist: testing your audience’s mettle before allowing them to join their journey. Balancing melodies off of the mangled, histrionic electronics creates an effect akin to being confronted by a sizzled tv with a glimmer of an aerial attached via a nose hair thread, leaping in and out of clarity. This track revs like a jet engine struggling to kick in. Like clashing noise blades. There appears to be a digital chorus of cawing birds shrieking for mates via bit-mangled-synths.
Throughout Bleach is a thread of, if not battling nature then at least gazing in impotent awe of it. There are references to corrosive chemicals, synthetics, electronics and the track titles themselves include the following: ‘Plastic’, ‘Bleach’, ‘Avalanche’, and ‘End Of The World’. But whilst this might seem like the starting point, the end appears to be something a little less reactionary. Acceptance. Acknowledging that these flaws & glitches are all part of a greater whole. We don’t have to rejoice but it’s worth knowing that acceptance, itself, can be freeing. The dully repeated mantra – “This is the end of the world as we know it” ascends to new heights when lifted by golden, warming, drones. It lights up the buckling digital bloops and blurps. It seems capable of supporting this haggard world but then vanishes in the blink of an eye, leaving us all low and soggy.
Elsewhere on the album we get fingerpicked guitar work that begins organically and in earnest before warping with delay and becoming defect-riddled. This is music that has been swarmed by gremlins. The urge is to rid yourself of them. Make the world smooth, unnatural, plastic. It takes effort and consideration to embrace gremlins. To live with your demons. There are scratchy electronics like a cat clawing at a box of lego alongside what sounds like a bat with a piezo-mic-ball on a string. It’s seemingly po-face. Free of chuckles in an acidic way. Dismembering the “Live Laugh Love” cliché of a thousand bored bedrooms.
The further through the album we go, the more often non-verbal vocals crop up. It’s as if language itself is as prone to the rot and abrasion as the simpering electronics. By the time that we reach the finale ‘Early Hours’ (surely the most suitable time of day for Hyperdawn to exist) everything is trickling out, crumbling away. They’ve taken their hands off the tiller and are just letting this thing glide off to wherever it chooses.There’s something highly enviable about this approach. Perhaps we could all do with un-fisting our hands from the anchors that we’ve turned into shackles. As one famous psychedelic pioneer once said particularly well:
“Turn on, tune in, drop out”