Retort Records 1st release – ‘On Automata’ – Review

This is my friend’s label that I “Work” for, so I’m perhaps inclined to give this a favourable review… 😛

This release is very limited in release, only 300 copies.  It’s really become apparent to me how much the Australian music industry is in the shit.  These days, everyone can purchase their music for cheaper online from overseas.  Don’t even get me started on illegal and free downloads.  However, a lot of the value is lost in digital music, both aesthetically and physically. Mp3s are what is known as a lossy format, some of the data quality is lost everytime they are used.  To combat this, Retort Records has made ‘On Automata’ available in loseless .flac format.  But forget about that, let’s get back to basics, away from the digital world.  Let’s get back to that ol’ 12” wax.  Vinyl represents a chance for us to create a work of art that is solid in every sense of the word.

Enough ranting, now for a bit about the record itself…

The front and back cover art is Jonathan McCabe’s Symmetric Turing Patterns, in the greyscale imagery you will see a lot more of with Retort Records artwork in the near future, I have been told.  It is very intricate and draws you in, like the sperm to egg.  The gatefold art has been done by Lewis Smart, and features an apocalyptic landscape (again in greyscale) and a slummy bedroom.  The picture is eroding around the side in the shape of a record, and one gets the impression that this erosion will be apparent in the music.

The introduction, ‘One like Fire’, is a collaboration by Sun in Aquarius and Sraildabaoth, ‘Machine Makes Change’ (I remember Oliver got this name from a cigarette machine at the now shut Winsome Hotel in Lismore).  It is harsh and uncomprimising in its sound, the production very high-end, but more like a high-tech radar scrabbler then a rolls royce.

The 2nd track is by Lodsb, this track ‘Vlvr’ is again harsh and epitomises the feeling of the gatefold artwork, one is reminded of landscapes on fire whilst Lodsb plays the keys on an organ that is creating the destruction of the earth.  In a cloak, he has to be in a cloak.

We are then drawn further into the amoeba’s surface with Scozbor’s Fuzzy vs Shiney, which for me is one of the stand-out tracks on this compilation.  An eerie 4×4 beat slowly plods us along with a grooving bassline which progresses and unfolds into psychedelic and sometimes whimsical moments.

The immersion continues with Sun In Aquarius track, ‘Elasticity’.  This track is somewhat murky but clear at the same time, with deep intricate dubs and psychedelic deepness unreplicated by any other dub artist I’ve heard.  One is defiantely drawn in by the magic of this, it’s like a deep ocean of electricity.

The spacial qualities are continued and defined with Srialdabaoth’s first ever published track, “Eight Tantric Deities Difficult to Propitiate”.  The track is a careful blend of 180bpm frenetic tornado beats, placed on a warm background of subtle sound that gives the impression of a churning crowd dancing to one of those silent discos.  Also a real stand-out moment on this album.

Cabal Faction has a really grainy sound that makes you wonder whether or not you have wiped your stylus properly, but the fuzzy white noise is really what makes “Higher steps”.  The pace is settled down here with the guitar reverb gently seeping into the senses.  This track is also a debut for Cabal Faction.

We are then taken home to the centre of the nucleus with Caural’s ‘Soundtrack for Endings’, a sad and haunting take that soothes the heart.  The gentleness of this track made me feel really comfortable.

All in all, ‘On Automata’ is a surprisingly gentle album.  It acheives a status of truely valuable music that can be come back to time and time again.  This is all too rare in the world today.

Retort Records 1st release – ‘On Automata’ – Review


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