BY JENNIFER KELLY
Strange three dimensional landscapes construct and deconstruct themselves , with landmarks taking almost-recognizable shape then disappearing into the fog. Some sounds zoom in and out of focus, like metallic insects swooping in to dive-bomb your face, while others hover weightlessly just at the edge of perception. With KOCH, London electronicist Lee Gamble explores the pulse and texture of sounds that may refer obliquely to the universe around us, but don’t exactly replicate them.
Gamble got his start in jungle, rave and techno, a influence you can hear in the insistent four-four knocking that undergirds “Motor System” ( and, later, “Caudata”). In “Motor System,” a bang-bang-bang-bang cadence hammers halfway through the track before splitting into a shadow-tricked fracture, so that upbeat echoes fall milliseconds away from the main rhythm, reinforcing it but also calling it into question. That’s kind of the way with this album – the sounds that seem most real and certain disintegrate as you listen to them, while the ones that might be an illusion drift into proximity, obscuring all else.
You have the sense of machines running amok, while a lone human operator loses himself in daydreams, or perhaps the machine itself spins fantasies. “You Concrete” begins in a freeway roar, the howl of noise gradually subsumed by more cogitative melodics. “What you’ve got is an old, miserable subculture,” someone says in the album’s only decipherable verbiage, and a clash and grind of metro trains pulling into a station is overlayered with an aurora borealis of shifting tone.
“Head Motel”’s interplay of inchoate sound clouds and neurotic patter and tap is like anxiety wandering through a meditator’s self-calming mantra. “Fame Drag” implies threat. You might envision iron doors shutting, the shiver of uncertainty, the reassurance of hope in a series of sounds that don’t so much resemble real life as recall it out of a Rorscharch blotch.
Issues? Maybe “Jovelayup” goes on too long, its freight train clatter punctuated by steam-blast upbeats, its relentless momentum rattling through densifying and thinning banks of sound. Maybe none of these tracks sound the way I hear them. Maybe they aren’t meant to refer to anything, but rather exist in their own technological space, one electronic component speaking to another, with Lee Gamble presiding over an unreal, utterly engrossing world.
DOWNLOAD: “Motor System,” “Fame Drag,” “Head Motel”