- An often-exhilarating look at club music's primal energy.
- What if we say that rave and hardcore and techno are mindless? What if we drop any pretenses of depth or nuance and embrace the madness? Where would that leave us? Perhaps it'd leave us with an album like Upside Down Smile by the Polish artist Ewa Justka. On "Something Alive But Unevolvable" she creates a reverse helter skelter to insanity, an exaggerated version of the most exaggerated EDM build. For eight engulfing minutes, the synths ascend. No drop or payoff arrives. Somewhere amid the cataclysm, the track sheds any standard signifiers of music and simply becomes a raw sonic experience; "I survived 'Something Alive But Unevolvable'" a t-shirt might read. The album isn't all like this. Some DJs out there might even play some of it. But the track says plenty about the way Justka amplifies club music's extreme characteristics.
Upside Down Smile, which arrives on the revered experimental imprint Editions Mego, feels like the product of an artist unindoctrinated in a scene's conventions. Interestingly enough, in investigating bloody-minded pounding and intense, minimalist synthesis, Justka often arrives at something more complex and singular. "Hello? Stella? Artois..? Artaud?," "Slippery Slide" and "The House Covered In Grape Leaves" create ghosts or impressions of rhythms that aren't in fact present, as the mind attempts to order the delicious disorder. The beatless "Scarlatti's Saw" and "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe" also play to the strengths of Justka's approach, as she doubles down on lead synths, like Lorenzo Senni turned sour. Some of the straighter approximations of gabber and hardcore, like "We Tend To Underestimate The Forces That Distort Our Imagination" feel merely banging. But others, like the acid-drenched "As Simple As This" and the highly jagged "Problems With Limits," are fascinatingly off-centre, like looking at something you know in a carnival mirror.
All of this might sound very au courant—an artist dealing in noisy rave reductions and reconstructions. And really, it is. But, if you've got a taste or tolerance of the extreme, Upside Down Smile is often an exhilarating study of the basic primal energy that underpins club music.
01. Mindless Cycles
02. Problems With Limits
03. Scarlatti's Saw
04. Something Alive But Unevolvable
05. Hello? Stella? Artois..? Artaud?
06. The House Covered In Grape Leaves
07. We Tend To Underestimate The Forces That Distort Our Imagination
08. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
09. As Simple As This
10. Slippery Slide