Black Light Spiral
24 February 2014 (Hemlock Recordings)
Up to this point, electronic entrepreneur Untold’s career has existed in a string of left wing shifts in genre that only get weirder the closer you think you are to figuring out his process. In that way, his proper debut, “Black Light Spiral” comes as almost expected. Once again, instead of delving deeper into the broken world of dubstep, or brightening the all too repetitive house scene, “Black Light Spiral” falls into a curious hybrid that’s almost too broken and chaotic to attempt to explain. By the end of its 8-track run, the British producer very deliberately drains you of all energy, and leaves its 40-minute buildup of tension unfinished.
Albums under an hour rarely can faze me the way “The Seer” or “Shaking The Habitual” can, but “Black Light Spiral” gives a run for their money. Maybe it’s the necessity to fully submerge oneself to get lost in the album, but the post apocalyptic, distorted synths present on nearly every song begin to submerse the listeners ears by track three or four. Album opener and arguably strongest overall song “5 Wheels” reasonably explain what one’s getting into by listening to the album. Untold’s club backgrounds drop the floor on everything on “Black Light Spiral”, leaving the songs as disorienting, half-lives of their past selves. “5 Wheels” opens with low stabs of bass and hints at four on the floor percussion, and suddenly opens up with every kind of siren imaginable going off at nearly the same time. Literally.
“Drop It On The One” and “Sing A Love Song” work as a good pair of early off singles, though along with “5 Wheels”, this leaves most of the album relatively top heavy. The latter of the two is Untold making sure we know he’s not too self serious about himself. It flirts with reggae, centered on a hypnotically brief vocal sample, and breaks down into a piano shuffle halfway through- just in case it was getting too predictable for you.
The second half, while less sharpened as the first, works in the slower, subtler pieces in between jarring cuts back to distorted, bleak house. Verging on Dntel’s 1990’s classic “Life Is Full Of Possibilities”, the interlude tracks present much less than what’s actually going on. Further listens bring out all the little nuances, though sometimes they stay too unresolved or unimportant to make them all that, well, interesting. That aside, it’s still comforting that there are breathers in between the more obtuse tracks.
“Strange Dreams” works perfectly where it is in the album, and probably wouldn’t anywhere else because of its sudden shift to melody. It’s really the only true melody on the album, and after the 5 preceding songs; it makes the payoff even more worth it. Thankfully the whole album doesn’t rely on that little trick; “Hobthrush” is a gleefully menacing 8 minutes of broken synth stabs of rhythm and eerie, drawn out bell samples.
Untold has clearly formed a different palette to work with than most artists ever seem comfortable for, but his unpredictability is starting to maybe come off as something nearing predictable- but is that really a bad thing? If “Black Light Spiral” serves as a blueprint for further Untold releases, I’ll probably be a little disheartened. Not that it doesn’t work, but few producers can so effortlessly dabble in so many different styles that it seems this guy’s destined to keep messing with the world of EDM (or ‘IDM’, if you’re so inclined to sound knowledgeable about things that you know little to nothing about). “Black Light Spiral” is a delightfully enjoyable piece of smart, sometimes half destroyed, sometimes hard to listen to music.
Favorite Tracks: “5 Wheels”, “Strange Dreams”, “Hobthrush”
Rating: Liked It