LEE GAMBLE Mnestic Pressure gets 6.5/10

Lee Gamble
Mnestic Pressure
Hyperdub

6.5/10

David Berman of Silver Jews once crooned, “In space there is no centre, we’re always off to the side”. And so it is apparently with Lee Gamble’s contributions to the electronic music scene. Never one to offer up a ‘hit record’, Gamble has been content to explore the uncharted edges of the scene, and this theme is continued with his latest release, Mnestic Pressure.

Previous LPs, including Koch (2014), never quite lived up to his most well known release, Diversions 1994–1996 (2012). Diversions was so named as it was a writer’s block distraction to unstick his compositions. A similar example in the film world is the Cohen Brothers penning the Cannes Palm D’Or-winning Barton Fink while they were stuck on the script of Fargo. For Diversions, Gamble deconstructed mid-90s hardcore and jungle tracks beyond recognition – the vaporous tunes shifted and throbbed through a prism of post-production and editing that created something entirely new in ambient composition. The LP has become a classic of the genre and has cast a long shadow over his subsequent works.

For Mnestic Pressure, Gamble again set out to create something non-formulaic and original, and under these criteria he has largely succeeded. The tracks shift from style to mood throughout the album, sometimes approaching that Diversion-esque mystique but with the new LP this is just as often maddeningly incoherent and makes for some difficult listening.

After repeated listens, quite simply Mnestic Pressure begins to sound like a journey through outer space. Opening track Deja Mode builds the tension with an electronic choral-like sci-fi ambience that is heard frequently throughout the album, but is disrupted by pounding, reverberating thuds, as though workers are preparing the space craft for lift off.

The next several tracks are among the most beat-heavy with more purposeful-sounding thudding and what could be a ticking hi-hat on East Sudduke. Ghost draws from junglist grooves but with otherworldly noises in the atmosphere. Owing to its more familiar sounds, Ghost is the closest thing Mnestic Pressure offers up as a ‘hit’ here. Ignition Lockoff continues to bring the broken beats and the upper register eyes-to-the-heavens atmospherics, but with more thunderous beats, sounding something like being stuck in a bunker with AT-AT walkers from Star Wars clomping around overhead.

Inta Centre starts with some jungle beats but then quickly follows its own spinning compass trajectory of ambient washes and odd rustling sounds, leaving the listener not sure where the track, or ship, is venturing to next. Istian continues to channel some more of the Diversions sound with a hardcore diva’s disembodied voice floating through the track, but with a squelchy lead synth line and a decidedly off-kilter skittering beat underneath, giving pause to the notion that the skipper actually knows where this journey is going. The short ambient track Locked In gives some warning that the spacecraft is heading out to more dangerous sectors with its unnerving horror synth stabs.

On Quadripoints, Swerva and A tergo Real, the ship visits decidedly Autechre and Squarepusher galaxies, but like a good visitor, uses the local language and observes the customs while there. Despite the familiarity of the sounds, the tracks are still Gamble’s own idiosyncratic constructions and are intriguing contributions. A tergo Real hits the balance just right, with a nice fracturing melody ricocheting off the bulkheads below decks to produce a recognizable tune that hums just above the many strands of ambient clutter.

UE8 is one of the most abrasive tracks, all thump, skitter and thud with occasionally some solar rays shining through to provide some relief before the bludgeoning picks up again. Your Hedonic is a walk outside the ship, with a coming-and-going metallic echo that sounds like gravity boots on the hull and offering some nice views of the stars with gentle celestial tones. Closing track 23 Bay Flips is a return to Earth, as the tyre screeching effects and snippets of human dialogue sound as though the ship has crash-landed in the middle of Manhattan.

Although Gamble is to be praised for his attempt at an original, hard-to-classify work, ultimately the ride will prove to be quite bumpy for most electronic music listeners. However, for the more abstract-leaning types that aren’t shy of some abstract and abrasive beats and sounds, Mnestic Pressure may just be the thing to transport you out your armchair for the better part of an hour.

PAUL DOUGHTY

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