If you like uninspiring preset electronic drumbeats, meandering synth noises, and endless distorted ranting in French, then this is the perfect release for you.
To be fair, it would be a bit unkind of me to suggest that this twenty-three-minute EP, the joint work of USHERsan on synthesisers, tapes, and voice, and HIV+ on synth, beatbox, noises, and voice, is nothing but uninspiring preset electronic drumbeats, meandering synth noises, and endless distorted ranting in French. I mean, it is very much primarily uninspiring preset electronic drumbeats, meandering synth noises, and endless distorted ranting in French, but the meandering synths are superb—thick with post-organic timbre and fuzz, splashing, washing, and coating the sound-field in their glistening, squelching majesty—and the endless distorted ranting in French is also pretty great as it obliquely jabbers away in diatribes both emphatic and unintelligible. But the uninspiring preset electronic drumbeats are a bit on the nose.
Honestly, it’s just the beats that let it down: while the synths and noises coil, rush, seethe, and saturate in all sorts of immersive and entertaining ways, and the vocals are approached from all sorts of creatively engaging angles (distortions, panning effects, textural annihilation, stuttering delays, etc.), the beats really do sound a lot like someone just pressed ‘play’. The music, without the beats, would be quite powerful—strange, disorienting, alien, robotic, evocative—but somehow, the predictable drum-machine beats seem to constantly drag it back down into being nothing but some sort of cold disco electronica for young cybergoths to frownily shuffle back and forth to. I understand that USHERsan and HIV+ are not actually trying to create something new; they’re trying to emulate or pay homage or some such thing—I know, I know. Yet, I can’t help but feel that this duo ended up making something that just didn’t need to be made. There is already so much interesting and well-made music out there, so it’s not like we have a shortage of great things to listen to. What does this release add to the world? I’m just not sure.
In a strange twist of circumstance, considering all I’ve just said about originality versus emulation, the only track on this EP that really excited me was the second piece, ‘I Remember’, which turned out (I discovered later) to be a cover version of a song released in 1978 by synth-punk pioneers Suicide. ‘I Remember’ struck me as super interesting, probably because of its lack of obvious drum-machine. Instead, the engine of this electronic punk psychedelia is motorik synthesiser pulse rhythms. No kicks, no snares, no dippy hi-hat emulations—just pure energetic pulse. As the pulse races on, like a silver mercury heartbeat, living organisms writhe and rant over the top, and all the while alien textures swirl, fizz, and sluice all around in a thick futuristic fog. This piece does all the things that the rest of the EP fails to do. It evokes, engages, and throbs electronically without sounding cheesy; it doesn’t undermine its extraterrestrial potential with ever-so-Earthling artefacts; it grabs me and drags me along with it, eager, engrossed and out of this world. Perhaps this tells us something about actual soul versus superficial imitation; perhaps it is something about the intrinsic nature of engaging songwriting versus the gestural ticking of certain stylistic boxes; perhaps it just tells us something about the passion with which people love covering songs they already love versus the anxiety of creating new art that hasn’t already been successfully road-tested. Whatever the specific lessons learned, this track was amazing, while the rest really, well, weren’t. Thankfully, this piece is not only the most exciting, but the longest too, clocking in at a good seven-and-a-half minutes, which is just about a third of the whole running length of the EP.
Overall, I could imagine someone who isn’t me really quite enjoying Black Monolith. For me, though, the blandness of the electro-drums that run throughout this whole release really made it a bit of a struggle. Except for that second track, of course, which I could listen to again and again and again…
01) Nuevo Siglo
02) I Remember
05) Someone Else
06) Sister Soledad [Digital Version Only]
07) Swamp Nerves (Slow Down Version) [Digital Version Only]