Available on: Digitalis
Lines Describing Circles is Peder Mannerfelt’s first solo LP under his given name, though his discography stretches in all directions, from his work as half of the experimental duo Roll the Dice, to production on Fever Ray’s album, and releases on Digitalis as The Subliminal Kid. By definition an album is a grander statement than an EP, but even so the format is particularly suited to Mannerfelt. Lines Describing Circles more than delivers on the promise of his solo EPs, with pulverising tracks that work well as standalone pieces but even better as part of a wider narrative arc.
The cacophonies Mannerfelt wrings from his machines are brutal and hint at unfettered chaos, yet the firm control he exerts over both the sound and its arrangement results in calculated, sinister music that’s nevertheless amorphous and unpredictable. Broadly speaking, you can lump Mannerfelt in with producers working at the intersection of noise and techno, but Ø’s vast, chilly landscapes and Sunn O)))’s funereal doom are just as apt referents as more immediate ones like Emptyset or Container.
On ‘Collapsion’, bottomless bass thuds grimly, intercut with slices of whirring noise and, eventually, a cauterising trebly drone. ‘Lines Describing a Circle’ builds on the first track’s dread by building gradually into a behemoth, opening with a solemn rhythm and then heating up as if lit from within: the thin digital hum thickens into a grainy buzz, the drums grow harsher, and bands of white noise stretch out over everything. For all the chaotic oscillations though, every element is precisely placed in the mix, so that the sense of mounting doom feels eerily inevitable.
Although the mood is bleak throughout, Lines Describing Circles never feels one-dimensional, thanks to huge range in its dynamics, tone and rhythm. The harsh, stuttering buzz of ‘Affricate Consonants’, coupled with fathomless bass and kicks, makes for an equally disquieting experience, while the pounding drums of ‘Gulo Gulo Caesitas’ suggest a different kind of bleakness, the oppressiveness of its rhythm only heightened by Mannerfelt’s addition of squalls of feedback. Unsparing restraint counters the noise, the limitations Mannerfelt imposes on sounds serving to emphasise their colossal impact.
The only relief seems to come from the almost-song ‘Alpha Waves’, but its repetitive, cranking structure is just a different kind of foreboding, while flashes of noise on ‘Derrvish’ pound away like the signal of untold horror, and ‘Nihilist 87’ is comparatively quiet, as grey, barren and unwelcoming as its title suggests. Every surface is roughened and grainy, and great forbidding groans of sub-bass and sustained treble are outlined so sharply it’s as if they’re rubbing unpleasantly on your skin.
Tight sequencing means that Lines Describing Circles becomes more crushing with each successive track. The only one that feels slightly out of place is ‘Evening Redness in the West’, where an inhuman, robotic voice repeats the words “barren” and “horizon” over hisses of feedback and fragmented notes that seem to hang in empty space. But ‘In Place of Once Was’ and ‘Rotterdam Anagram’ are among the strongest tracks on Lines Describing Circles, desolate pieces where sombre pads and thick slashes of distortion bring the dystopian narrative to a fitting close. Mannerfelt’s knack for conjuring up and sustaining unrelentingly bleak atmospheres was already clear from his EP releases, but Lines Describing Circles is without question the most thrilling, monolithic record he has put his name to yet.