A hellfire debut of eclectic bangers, recorded in a caravan on the West Coast of Scotland.
"Pissed and lonely, pissed and lonely, spilt wine in my caravan" sounds a dulcet-toned haiku on "Genesis Redux," the opening track on Sockethead's blistering debut album, Harj-O-Marj. Sockethead is a new project from Richard Harris, a Manchester-based painter, art lecturer and member of the city’s Return To Zero DJ crew.
Harj-O-Marj translates loosely from Persian as "bedlam"—anarchy, turmoil, chaos—aptly summarising some the themes explored on this colourful release. The LP runs the gamut from jungle to neo-folk, dub to hardcore, hip-hop to spoken-word poetry. Harj-O-Marj is said to have been produced in a caravan on the edge of Scotland's Holy Isle. Harris clearly had a lot of fun making the record, and a thread of wicked Northern humour runs right through it.
Harris borrows concepts from classic painting techniques, free-pouring and splattering sound until he's procured something with Jackson Pollock-esque depth of feeling. On "When I Close My Eyes I See Paint," high-pitched synths noodle atop heavy bass tones to create a dank atmosphere. Things get going on "Chaos Portrait." The track that begins like Ghettoville-era Actress or a vintage Hype Williams jam: an R&B sample loops over a lo-fi backing track, then scatter-fire drum & bass breaks come rolling in with the intensity of an ecstasy come-up. Euphoric vocal samples—"It happened quickly," "Love meeee"—ring nostalgia bells for the lost raves of yesteryear.
There are themes of love and loss. Harris pieces together drunk emotions, crooning "Sync-ra-nisss-aaa-tee" on the dubby ballad "Synchronicity." On "Love Loss Missing Yearning," a deep folk-synth jam, Harris's poetic verse brings to mind Mike Skinner's prose on The Streets classic Original Pirate Material. This is the album's most melodic track and might appeal to DJs looking for an outsider-house curveball. Cryptic statements like "hospitals no longer safe places" resonate with the times on "Weights Chains & Forgetful Remembrance," a track centred on a solitary sub-bass tone, ricocheting like a rubber ball off a concrete wall.
The second half of the record is more abstract. Sockethead mines old recordings of TV shows on "Jahiliyyah," recalling the early Boards Of Canada mixtapes on Skam Records. "Hyena Clan" feels like a retro video game, fusing ominous digi-dub sounds with weirdo folk lyrics about a stranger impaling Harris's soul. We're transported someplace entirely different on "Gravity Stone Ally," which flows tight like a hip-hop interlude into "Webale," a slow-crooning finale that melts on the platter like a chopped n' screwed Dilla tune. A quick "thank you" sounds—"webale" means "thank you" in Luganda, one of the major languages of Uganda. Bravo Sockethead. Curtain call.
Tracklist01. Genesis Redux
02. When I Close My Eyes I See Paint
03. Chaos Portrait
04. Love Loss Missing Yearning
07. In Search Of Truth
09. All My Days Are Dark As Night
10. Weights Chains & Forgetful Rememberance
11. You Are Not a Machine
12. Hyena Clan
13. Gravity Stone Ally