SUPERTOYS LAST ALL SUMMER LONG


Gatekeeper: Giza
May 7, 2011, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews, Recommended Albums, The Quietus

After a hard day of yakking up stomach lining and wanking for Richard Kern on a marble panther, Milo Cordell – CEO of Merok Records – likes nothing better than a bit of scouting, occasionally throwing up a next-season buzz act to get excited about. Hunting dangerous new prospects like a brow-mopping chickenhawk, at last count the label co-distribute more than a daylight-intolerant reprobate or two, not least the black-veined Comanechi, dragging their rabid grunge set around the capital by the hair, and Salem, who crack-sick and mumbling have scarified the musical landscape last year with King Night’s goth pleasure-dome. At the fainter end of the label is New York’s Blondes and Teengirl Fantasy, whose tactile memory music is time-slowing, a far off kick-drum orientating the listener around a kind off REM-disco, with subliminal prog-house drifting from across a lake.

Hailing from (tellingly) both Chicago and Brooklyn, Merok’s newest prize-fighter falls somewhere equidistant to several of the imprint’s most lauded groups. Chosen from the loose assortment of horror-phile dance acts orbiting Kompact’s Fright Label, Gatekeeper and their like-minded cohorts have received huge support for their sound, dubbed ‘surrealist ebm’ by influential blog 20JFG. They’re an obvious candidate for the Merok treatment, really, given Giza’s purgatorial setting, the swarming interference and the memory recall (those dialogue samples are gleaned from YouTube – glo-fi’s official zoetrope). On their waxy 12″ EP, the abiding inspiration was Carpenter-style yearbook horror – a sterile menace signifying white Porsches and clean blades, absent parents and deserted locker rooms. This follow-up to ‘Optimus Maximus’ expands their sound into more exotic pastures, taking much the same direction as (again Merok’s) Crystal Castles did for their second effort; a more coloured, liquid and substantive album.

The most all-out danceable track they’ve hitherto come up with, ‘Chains’ begins the record with a kick-starting motorcycle. As the burly mule races into the distance a jump-scare primer triggers the type of cyclonic modulation perfect for road-battles and low-camera speeds. Reminiscent too of Brad Friedel’s ‘Tunnel Chase’ for the Terminator OST, the tarantula-like pattern shuts down on a freezing motif.

Piloted by a lead-line Soulja Boy could get with, ‘Storm Column’ rides along on a synthetic male choir – with a little more black magic pollution you’d have a euro-stern Salem doing foundational techno. ‘Mirage’ meanwhile applies a detuned acid bassline to compressed gongs, pan-flutes and droning monks, lending an air of exotic adventure to proceedings, while ‘Giza’ borrows ‘Final Search’ from Friday The 13th and sees the duo at their most Jack-O-Lantern; shunting the listener around on a rickety ghost train with stock howls, shrieks and lightning strikes drop in random fashion. The mini-album comes to a close with ‘Mirage’ and ‘Oracle’; a couple of hard laps around the “CG hell-scape” as they are calling it, resuming again with the caustic arpeggios and stone-breaking beats. Their ability to make hooks and devices from movie effects whilst keeping it functioning as dance music takes real panache.

Although gift-wrapped in high-end production, Giza is also brilliantly period-precise; replete with dodgy imitative synths, digital emulators, imperfect programming and tacky presets. That you can almost hear the mouse clicking on the over-pitched effects is entirely intentional. It’s in perfect synchronicity with their video-collaborations with the Thunderhorse FX house and the collective’s retro-fetish for early-Nineties 3D animation (their homepage also boasts a playable demo of Doom), and the duo are releasing the promos on VHS tape.

Set within a tangible virtual space, both unreal and noxious, the impossible architecture of H-pop’s Rorschach-ian processes zigzag up the walls, all but undetectable within the fog. The songs are chock-full of vaguely familiar references, the gated tom rolls are particularly evocative (tip-of-your-tongue, finger-clicking familiar – either Near Dark or The Running Man? Help me out). Pressing any number of sub-conscious buttons, Giza‘s bells and alarm fall so far below the threshold of control or understanding the effect is almost frightening, or supernatural in this case. Chiller-wave, anyone? John Calvert

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