Sonically expansive and aurally immersive, Delusi‘s debut disc makes a solid impression. The work of U.K. sound artist Richard Smithson, Cataclysmia represents an artist already on top of his game. The expertise is due to years of genre experimentation, ranging from ambience to dubstep. Early songs even contain vocals. Shedding faces like snake skins has brought the artist to this point. As good as previous digital works have been, he’s saved his best for his physical debut.
Cataclysmia comes across like a mystery, with sonic clues as signposts. The disc wastes no time plunging into the depths of drone. The shifting volumes of the title track make it seem like an overture, especially the rapid choral surges that crash into percussion like stolen cars into barricades. This idea is supported by the opening sound of “Shuttle”, which sounds like a seatbelt indicator. Delusi paints the outlines, allowing listeners to fill in the center. The crackle may be a fire, or simple static discharge. Mood is more important here than ascertainable narrative. A louder alarm sounds in the final minute, along with a strangled bullfrog gulp ; something is definitely awry.
Sirens sound, a door opens, a resident ventures outside to see what is the matter. We are now in “HAARP”, the album’s 15-minute centerpiece. HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) has been blamed by conspiracy theorists for mind control, weather changes, and acts of terrorism. The sense of cataclysm has never been so strong. A dog barks as an air traffic controller attempts to communicate, bringing to mind the uneasy mystery of the missing Malaysian airline. Are world events being manipulated by a sinister international cabal? Could Foucault’s Pendulum be real? Delusi isn’t here to provide answers, or even to suggest questions. He’s presenting sounds as evidence, inviting listeners to hear what they may. Deepening the mystery is an alternate version (available on Soundcloud) that includes the sound of wind and backward masking. The overall implication: there’s more going on than we know.
There’s no way to guess where Delusi may head next. He may decide to return to a previous genre to sharpen its edges; he may remain in the current field; he may continue to jump genres. Digital track “Our Entire Existence Is a Simulation Recurring”, released concurrently with Cataclysmia, seems to indicate that he’ll stay here for a while. We’d be happy with such a choice, although this album has won our confidence; wherever he heads next, we’ll be happy to follow. (Richard Allen)