The Upshot: Futuristic sonic spaces, paced by adrenaline-surging rhythms, undergirded by rumbling bass-y synths and twitching with alienation.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Bryan Black, who records as Black Asteroid, constructs vast futuristic sonic spaces, paced by adrenaline-surging rhythms, undergirded by rumbling bass-y synths and twitching with alienation. The distance between a nearly subliminal throb and the treble-y, staccato upbeats is cathedral-sized and underpopulated, an ominous void that makes scattered sonic elements pop like neon. And yet, it is an ideal sized sonic canvas on which to place vocal melodies — performed by Cold Cave’s Wesley Eisold, Zola Jesus and fashion icon Michele Lamy — whose warmer, less mechanical tones fill up gigantic midrange areas in roughly half of these cuts.
Black got his start engineering and doing keyboard tech for Prince, and he is also one half of the techno duo MOTOR. As Black Asteroid, he’s recorded a raft of singles and Eps, but #Thrust# is his first full-length album. Though the diversity of singers gives it a somewhat episodic feel, at least on the surface, the album has a foundational consistency – rhythmic tension, deep chill, gleaming surfaces. Imagine a disused airline hanger or redundant factory floor, dark, ominous, empty, technological.
Wesley Eisold is the most frequent collaborator, contributing to three of ten tracks, in his cool, uninflected voice, a throwback to the stylish anomie of artists like Depeche Mode’s David Gahan. His last outing, “Sun Explodes” leaves a lasting mark, his wavery talk-sing merged with a woman’s voice over pounding four-on-the-floor, a chilled dystopia whose main lyric seems to be “too many cunts.” Zola Jesus’ track, “Howl” is another highlight with its subterranean thunder, its shiny dark surfaces. It’s an austere landscape, vaguely threatening, yet the singer fills it with lush-ness, with multi-syllabic “oh-oh-ohs” that spill over the hard foundation luxuriantly, like a kudzu growing over polished glass. But it’s Michele Lamy, who is in her 70s and sounds it, who scores the deepest impression. Her smoky, smouldery voice might remind you a little of Laurie Anderson, deep and flexible, French accented and utterly human in the context of Black’s minimalist beats.
About half the tracks are instrumental only, allowing listeners to glimpse the architecture underneath. “Chromosphere,” the closer, looms and skitters, its weight carried by deep-toned synths, its heights defined by pinging, zooming synths. The space in between is empty here, so that no matter how loud you turn it up, there’s a cold, silent presence inside the music, which is intriguing on its own and also an empty stage for whoever might be coaxed to enter.
DOWNLOAD: “Tangiers (with Michele Lamy)”, “Howl (with Zola Jesus”