- The return of Sheffield duo SND in the past few years has been a rather fruitful and lovely surprise. That is, if your idea of lovely is raw data clicking with exacting precision in varying degrees of distress. The Atavism album brought the glitchy SND sound to new extremes of acerbic experimentalism, an uncompromising search for some kind of extremity that carried mood-altering power if you had the patience or masochism to follow its path.
SND member Mark Fell's first solo album of 2010, Multistability, feels more like a sequel to Atavism than a distinct solo outing. It comes with a concept attached: essentially parallel universes colliding in one tracklist, the album presents two simultaneous but incomplete works, each duplicate track a sonic inversion of the other (hence "6-A," "6-B"). Of course, when the closest thing to melody your music has is the glints of light it catches as microscopic pieces of metal move in synchronized minutiae, the concept falls off of the slick surfaces. This music doesn't need any extraneous context to bring it together.
Similarities aside, Mark Fell's output isn't merely SND under another name. The tracks here are more likely to go haywire, accelerating to core-melting speeds or even breaking out into sunny clearings of fleeting chords. The stunning "10-A" could almost be a banger if it didn't fluctuate tempos like a revving car stuck in the mud. The head-on universe collision of "1-A 6-B" tries to thrust forward but is held back by pillows of soft cushioning chords.
One album this year wasn't enough for Fell, though. Just two weeks after Multistability comes UL8 on Editions Mego. Handily split into digestible sections, it's a much different listen than Multistability. The first section ("The Occultation of 3C 273") is the closest, but the sounds are duller, and more relaxed, with its distinct low-end coated with grit. The second section ("Vortex Studies") plays games with static and very slight noise for something that sounds like Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity as filtered through AtomTM's Liedgut: ancient but determinedly technological.
"Acids in the Style of Rian Trenor," the final section is the most adventurous, as Fell incorporates acid residue into his motorized conveyer belt: obscured at first, enough is eaten away that bits of squelch bubble through newly corroded holes. The closer "Death of Loved One" stands alone as the most accessible (and gorgeous) bit off of either album, as the tracks hits snags and stalls in glitched agony as a cloud of gorgeous and swirling transparent chords hovers above.
Fell's music is difficult, even for Raster-Noton or Editions Mego. A good amount of the time there's simply nothing to hold on to: where SND once had decipherable beats with albums like Tender Love, Fell's sleek surfaces are much too slippery to allow for grip. But there's a world of detail and profound rhythm, and with some patience this cold-by-design music can grip you as warmly as any deep house record. Whether you prefer the dimension-traversing continuity of Multistability, where sounds seem to expand and retract at will, collapsing into each other and becoming their opposites, or the more neatly confined and organized approach of UL8, there's a lot to discover on both.
01. Multistability 1-A
02. Multistability 2-A
03. Multistability 3
04. Multistability 5-A
05. Multistability 6-A
06. Multistability 7-A
07. Multistability 2-AA
08. Multistability 10-A / Multistability 11
09. Multistability 1-B
10. Multistability 2-B
11. Multistability 4
12. Multistability 5-B
13. Multistability 6-B
14. Multistability 7-B
15. Multistability 9
16. Multistability 10-B
17. Multistability 12
Part 1: The Occultation of 3C 273
Part 2: Vortex Studies
Part 3: Acids In The Style of Rian Treanor
20. Death of a Loved One