- "It came out of the blue," Lee Gamble said when I spoke to him recently. "Now I look at it and I think, 'God, imagine trying to make something that had that much impact in our little world! Really hard.'" He was referring to his breakthrough releases, 2012's Dutch Tvashar Plumes and Diversions 1994-1996, which shot him into experimental stardom pretty much overnight. This kind of thing can paralyse an artist: desperate to replicate their success, they end up repeating themselves, or trying to second-guess their audience. Gamble didn't do either, but his subsequent records favoured consolidation over reinvention. 2014's mind-twisting Koch built on the themes of his earlier music—time dilation, the unreal, the remembered and the dreamed—and refined its materials: techno's rhythms, UK hardcore's warped, ghoulish echoes.
That description would also fit the first track on Mnestic Pressure, "Inta Centre." It's a dazed collage of contrasting soundspaces, where Gamble's trademark serene chords ghost through clouds of engine rumble, distant drums, alien shrieks and crackles. But this familiar mood is misleading. Moments later, "Istian"'s snares rattle themselves into radioactive B-boy shapes (it's not the only bit of the album which sounds like Autechre in funky mode). The track swerves into "East Sedducke," a convulsive mimicry of jungle, and then "23 Bay Flips," whose hip-hop-like drum detonations send up gouts of atonal synth ooze. The dreamy sound of "Inta Centre" returns later, on "You Hedonic" and closer "Déjà Mode." But what happens in between is anything but a retread.
Gamble describes Mnestic Pressure as the "terrestrial" manifestation of sounds which, in his past music, we might've heard floating through outer space. In practice this means that, where Koch drifted by in a befuddled daze, its successor roars and struggles furiously, snapping you out of inattention at every turn. This is helped by an injection of new rhythms: techno is replaced by frantic hyperspeed drumwork perfectly suited to the artist's new home on Hyperdub. "UE8" sounds like an electro AI gone rogue. "Ignition Lockoff" is almost trap, its throbbing 808 bass and punishing snares playing Twister with bell-tone melodies. Gamble's music has never sounded this banging.
Even so, Mnestic Pressure's highlights aren't always rhythmic. Melody often steals the show, whether warped and dissonant, as on "Locked In," or sentimental, as in the gentle arps of "A Tergo Real," one of the prettiest moments in Gamble's discography. That track segues into "Ghost," a cool jungle roller of the sort hinted at, but never quite delivered, way back on Diversions 1994-1996. Breakbeats cut and swerve and nostalgic chords sigh over pulsing subbass. It's not super inventive, but it's a well-placed moment of convention on an album of bold, gravity-defying ideas. Gamble has said that Mnestic Pressure is a response to our turbulent times, and an attempt to confront the world rather than offer escape from it. That intention comes through, but the key to the album's brilliance lies elsewhere: in the way it balances fun, challenge and surprise more deftly than anything he's made before.
01. Inta Centre
03. East Sedducke
04. 23 Bay Flips
07. You Hedonic
09. Locked In
10. Ignition Lockoff
11. A Tergo Real
13. Déjà Mode