2016 was a prolific year for Anders Brørby, who began the year with Nihil (one of our Top Ten Drone Albums of 2016), followed it up with a split release on Land Animal Tapes, and topped off the year with this pair of releases on Hyle Tapes and Fort Evil Fruit. The latter contains a surprising sonic shift that suggests a new direction for 2017.
Fans of David Lynch will be enamored with Mulholland Drive, 1984, as the mood and menace translate intact. More than an homage to that famed film (released in 2001), the tape honors the cinematic surreal in all its forms, melding the title to Orwell’s novel and the sound to everything from Kreng to John Carpenter. Within only seconds, clouds of drone enter like black dogs, chased by sheets of precipitation and creak. Traffic races through the puddles, strange creatures bark warnings, and the sun never breaks through. The listening experience is unnerving and yet oddly familiar, like hints of a recovered traumatic memory.
The album grows more dramatic as it progresses, with only one misstep; the singing on “Defeat”. (Yes, we do remember the singing in Mulholland Drive.) The voice breaks the mood, and afterwards, it takes a while to recover for the album to recover. But this distraction can be overlooked, as the remainder of the set stays strong and sinister, veering from haunted ballroom (“The Unhappiest Places on Earth”) to black and white noir (“A Sudden Sense of Loss”). Even on the last track, the rain continues to fall.
Now keep the mood and the menace, but forget everything else you think you know about Brørby’s sound. Phoenix Down is a full left turn, through the barrier and down the rocks. On this tape, Brørby shifts from the cinematic gothic to the factory industrial, adding all manner of surprising beats, taking in influences as disparate as IDM and nu skool breaks. The first beat is the most surprising, of course, but after that the artist continues to investigate new territories, operating with the same sonic curiosity as Roly Porter and the Shape Worship crew. Fort Evil Music calls it “rave music for people who don’t go out,” but we must disagree; this would make incredible club music, albeit not in a mainstream setting. The percussive “Perfume Breath” is only the first taste. “Stab Path Meta Girls” bleeds old school industrial, replete with clanks, repetitive structures and feminine sighs. “Murder” turns wonky midway with the words “archangels and antichrists,” toppling into a sci-fi nightmare. But the most ferocious piece makes no play for adoration; “Bloodsport” is three minutes of bludgeoning beats and buried yelps, receding into abrasive interplay. Front 242 would be proud.
The cover is particularly alluring, suggesting hands about to clap (but unable to do so, having been amputated); raised in plea or euphoria. And behind them, something threatening and red: a spool, a totem, a broken bandage? Once again, Brørby (who painted the image) celebrates the surreal. We’re excited to see where he will head next, down the red brick road to unknown palaces and kings. (Richard Allen)