While Aftershock Vol. 2 is a sequel in name, the sonic terrain is dramatically different from that traveled on last year’s Vol. 1. The difference is that cellist Henrik Meierkord now joins Mia Zabelka and IcosTech, and their shared journey peels off in a different direction. The collective remains experimental, while offering additional access points through drone, modern composition and industrial electronics.
The album, like Medusa, shifts from one sort of being to another. For a quarter hour, the tone is spacious, wandering and percussion-free. One might categorize this segment as cosmic dark ambient, an aching aura created by the searching strings. The shift occurs in the middle of the eleven-minute “Primordial Chains,” the snaking drums like a stumbled-upon ritual on a distant planet. IcosTech’s guitar begins to vibrate and hum, piling on layer upon layer of feedback, and the danger that was hinted becomes real. The adrenaline continues to surge in “Tech 2417 (Aftershock Pt. 2),” a worthy sequel to “Aftershock.” That pounding prequel often broke into dissonance before inviting clubbers back to the dance floor; this one does the same, but also yields a sick bass that dominates the lower level, a greater variety of percussion and a punchier length.
Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 contains a brief mid-set interlude, this one painted with hand pan and guitar, so mutable that anything could follow it ~ a wise choice, as “Predatory Chaos” rises from chaos into maelstrom, resisting penetration, a reminder that the collective is capable of cacophony and cannot be pigeonholed. There’s even room for a trumpet solo. The next piece is titled “Faux Pas” and begins with muffled conversation before tumbling into a new category that one might call “drone funk” before dissolving into a morass of sound, suggesting that nothing here is a mistake ~ only happy accidents. Amusingly, this is not the sort of music that one can talk over.
With nothing left to prove, the collective returns to the club, energized and purified. “Return to Shangri-la Denied” is another unrelenting belter, reminiscent of Skinny Puppy, a winning brand of darkness, but not too dark for brass. As the guitar fills in the empty spaces, the drums continue to beckon; only when the dancers fall, spent, do Zabelka and Meierkord’s strings retake center stage, wrapping the album back to its beginning, like a spaceship returning to dock. The captain counts the crew; all are present. But wait, there seems to be one extra person …