c.db.sn + Scaffolding: Covalent States
Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens: Highway Driveway
Two new EPs from Plastic Sound Supply showcase two sides of the Denver-based label, with the c.db.sn and Scaffolding a four-tracker of glitched-out IDM and Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens' set a collection of “electronic bootgazing music”—or so we're told.
Covalent States, which presents an original apiece by c.db.sn and Scaffolding accompanied by corresponding remixes, harks back to time when Autechre's music still found the humans at the controls, not the machines. The release is, in fact, the third in a series of remix projects released by Plastic Sound Supply, and finds its two Denver-based producers showering head-nodding beats with all manner of synthetic shrapnel. Despite the complexity of its construction, Scaffolding's “Metals” remains grounded in melodicism of the kind famously propagated by Chiastic Slide-era Autechre. As such, the material retains a delicate character that humanizes its metallic, glitch-encrusted beatsmithing, and, powered by a forceful rhythmic design, the tune distills an entire genre into a single, six-minute track. c.db.sn's slightly shorter “Mercury” likewise evidences a devotion to the same period, though does so in far glitchier manner. In this case, strangulated tones writhe and contort themselves while downtempo hip-hop beats hold them in place. In the re-rubs, c.db.sn brings a similar sensibility and style to the glitch-funk “Metals” makeover, while Scaffolding's take on “Mercury” digs into its android groove with serious purpose. Not that anyone's necessarily keeping score, but if we were to do so, Scaffolding's contributions to the EP would come out slightly on top.
If Covalent States slots itself into a genre fairly straightforwardly, the opposite holds true for Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens' Highway Driveway, even if its cover image and typography carry with them gunslinging connotations of the Old West. Truth be told, it's hard to pin down the release—just when I think I've got a clear handle on its style, it slips through my fingers—but that's a strength, not a weakness: it's refreshing to encounter something so resistant to easy capture. Take the opener, “Cruise Control Dawn,” for instance. It opens in an almost grunge mode but then moves into a cosmic fire episode, and as the plot thickens, a wobbly bass resounds in the background, suggesting some confused connection to dubstep. Drums appear, too, in a move that nudges the track in a post-rock direction. Elsewhere, “Trotting Along” kicks up ample amounts of dust with a mix of shoegaze-inflected beats and muted horns, “Desert Night Train Lullaby” presents a nightmarish blend of woozy singsong and dramatic instrumental blaze, and “Flashbeagle is Home” surfs a wide-screen wave of shoegaze stomp. There are glitchy moments here too, though they more result from the grainy textural surfaces that accrue from the multi-layers of sound Wentworth Stevens works into the tracks. At the very least, one could conceivably describe Highway Driveway as twenty-three minutes of shoegaze spiked with cosmic juice.