nochexxx thrusters ramp

Available on: Ramp Recordings

Speaking to FACT, Drew Daniels of Matmos characterised psychedelia as ability to “take a tiny thing and extend it, extrude it into something much more extensive”, or “level down the question of what’s got priority and what’s important versus what’s just a meaningless detail, so you get lost telescoping down into those details.” All of which is very relevant to Nochexxx’s interests. The Cambridge producer is one of the most genuinely psychedelic acts in Britain at the moment, and it’s this ability to conceal deep weirdness and even sublimity in microscopic detail that makes his music what it is.

It would be really easy to mark his tracks down as throwaway – they are, after all, wilfully low-tech and full of signifiers of kitsch, kookiness, lo-fi and retro-ism, and you could see each as a silly game with reference points, deliberately undermining any seriousness with musical pratfalls and wacky samples (the extended riff about “staring at shit” that forms the intro to ‘Rinse Dreams’ here being case in point). It seems rickety, bodged together, not the kind of finessed stuff where you’d think microscopic production detail was relevant. But that’s not how it works in practice.

To continue with ‘Rinse Dreams’: after the scatological intro it turns into a piece of 200bpm 1980s digital dancehall splattered with squacky acid riffs, detuned bleeps, an insistent 4-note Detroit techno high-pitched synth-string riff and some electro vocal cut-ups. It should be a bloody mess, it should come over as knowing and smart-arsey, or at best it should just be a bit of fun – yet somehow it a) grooves and b) draws you in to its deeply, deeply weird contrasts of finesse and roughness, minuscule tweak and big clonking gesture, until you’re not sure which way is up any more.

Same goes for the ’80s sci-fi theme dub of ‘Crying Bamboo’, the bassline-house-glitch-acid of ‘Cola Duck’, the John-Carpenter-does-kids-TV-ghettotech of ‘Swat Erect’, the Gameboy-doing-bird-impressions of ‘Exholst’ and so on… Like the meaningless but disconcerting titles, what seems like fun and games constantly wrong-foots you, but not in a “ahaaa, look at this clever subversion” way. Quite the opposite, in fact. It does it by just working on the instinctive level that all proper dance music gets to, by giving that back-brain instant engagement with the strangeness and sensualism of the sounds that pre-empts any conscious assessment of its oddity.

I had this album playing the other day, and my iTunes decided for some reason to jump to an old Aphex Twin Caustic Window track. The comparison was illuminating: both are made on rough-and-ready, mucked-about-with hardware, but both transcend the sonic limitations of their recording by virtue of fresh and funny sounds that carry within them traces of, or windows into, big, weird, barking mad thought processes, like some Lovecraftian ancient god hiding in a wendy house. Don’t be fooled by the foolishness, this is real-deal mind-warping.

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