Australia’s Retort Records has been on a tear since May, releasing two 7″s, three EPs and two full-length albums. While Kashiwa Daisuke is the label’s best known name, IDM artist Lodsb is their crown jewel, and Helicon 1 is the artist and label’s best release to date.
Dark, industrial-minded, instrumental IDM is a rare species these days. The temptation is to repeat what others have done, or compromise for the dance floor. Lodsb does neither; the artist is more concerned with creativity. Helicon 1 is unlike its predecessor (also on Retort) in two important ways: the tracks are longer (five instead of eight) and the grooves are tighter. This time around, the artist keeps a steady beat in one arena while going wild with percussion in all other arenas. This tether allows chaos and order to co-exist, and is a boon to the listener. One soon forgets the steady beat, allowing it to sink into the recesses of the mind while one attempts to follow the pandemonium in the nether regions of the mix. The impact is immediately felt on the 140 b.p.m. “Sylt”, a ten-minute track whose ever-changing textures make it seem half its length. The slow and crunchy “Usedom” (with synthesized handclaps!) is another highlight, honoring the spirit of vintage haujobb. The wobbly bass tones that haunt the latter minutes bring it to an even deeper level. These bass tones morph into alarm buzzes on “Föhr”, which some may mistranslate as “Four” (because it’s the fourth track). But each of the tracks, Föhr included, is actually named after a German island, while the title of the record references a Mogwai song.
While visiting the Retort Records site, we encourage you to look around. IDM fans will find plenty more to love, in particular Xenoscapes‘ single-track EP Cities from Prehistoric, which moves from drone to glitch in the space of a quarter hour; and Stellar Ink Pony‘s 2-track blue vinyl 7″ One Tiny Memory, whose cover art is like a dark version of Monsters, Inc. and whose title track mixes jazzy vibraphone into the beats. Much more awaits, from piano music (Koby Israelite) to noise (Merzbow). The label may be young, but it’s made a great impression in a short period of time. (Richard Allen)