Barry Smethurst’s Apta project has been featured twice on our pages this year, the first time as part of Oxide Tones’ The Circle Project and the second as a standout cut on Future Elements’ Elements 1 compilation. Now the artist has graced us with a four-track EP, and by the sound of Algorithms, he’s learned a few new tricks. For now, we’ve still got him classified as post-rock, but that may be about to change.
Post-rock has typically been the bread-and-butter for Smethurst and his contemporaries (notably, The Eternal Twilight, The Echelon Effect and The American Dollar), but post-rock is a notoriously slippery genre; add an electronic or ambient touch, and the designations get tricky. Apta includes both, growing more confident as it progresses. “Rise” starts with the familiar ambient beats, a Casio vibe and a series of clear mini-melodies, but adds a popcorn-style percussive pattern that leads into a second set of patterns, sublimating the first. The less predictable it gets, the more interesting it gets, wandering further from its home. A few birds seem to be making a nest in the closing seconds; more on this in a moment.
“Break” is the most obvious guitar piece, but it also contains a processed line that imitates a violin. Again the beats emerge, but again they know their place; it’s to Apta’s credit that they do not run throughout. A fading vinyl crackle is the next sign that something more edgy may be on the horizon; this leads to a static emergence in “Shadows”, which once more introduces the keyboard violin. (Oh for a real violin!) A subtle shift at 2:34 is the track’s best trick; the static continues while the other timbres change. The final two minutes are more deliberate, the keyboards more apparent, appearing this time without a mask. But it’s “To the Sky” – particularly the closing section of “To the Sky” – that is most worth discussion. As the EP begins its descent, Apta adds the sound of field recordings, echoing the opening track with birdsong, but with much less processing. In the course of a single minute, multiple possibilities are opened.
At this point, Apta may be content to ride out the post-rock wave, but it seems more likely that he is realizing the potential of cross pollination. Highlight the field recordings and drone, the static and stuttering beats, and this project may grow into something unique. The bigger the risk, the bigger the gain or loss, but we’ve always been fans of going big. We’re already looking forward to the next chapter. (Richard Allen)