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Astral Social Club - Model Town in a Field of Mud

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Artist: Astral Social Club

Album: Model Town in a Field of Mud

Label: Textile

Review date: Jul. 14, 2008

Astral Social Club started as Neil Campbell’s solo ‘out’ from his daytime duties in British jam-band Vibracathedral Orchestra, but it’s since morphed into both Campbell’s most consistently slamming vehicle for electronic ear massage, and perhaps one of the most significant ‘mutant techno’ outposts of the past three or four years. On Model Town in a Field of Mud, Campbell is joined by fellow astronaut John Clyde-Evans (nee Tirath Singh Nirmala), someone who’s also well-versed in the possibilities inherent in electronic music’s never-ending now. The first fully collaborative ASC studio release, it’s also the act’s most potent, besting the Neon Pibroch and Super Grease dual set from 2007.

The key to ASC’s music is its collision of exhilarating, elemental noise peaks with phase patterns and rhythm programs that float just this side of the conventionally ‘wrong.’ Campbell and Clyde-Evans are fond of the gaudy, neon buzz of electronics when the meters are pushing far into the red, and they also deploy the strange pixilation that occurs when digital sources are stretched, resulting in tones that fray, bend and warp in unexpected ways. The tremolo effects here are extreme: it’s as though they’re writing pure binary code, a set of on/off flickers and stammers that strobe through your ears and drill into your cranium.

On occasion, some strummed acoustic instruments, zigzagging through notes like a slowed tape of sitar, fight their way to the fore. They’re given their moment in the sun before the electronics edge their way into the fray and slowly overtake, again. The whole affair feels somehow provocative, as Campbell and Clyde-Evans’s bustling, hyperactive techno shuttles blast directly into the corpus of the genre, questioning its traditionalism. But it’s also joyous music, tapping into a bloodline of breathless noise blastitude and sending that fucker out to orbit.

By Jon Dale

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