JT Whitfield released this self-titled album early in the year, and I regret having slept on it for so long; better late than never, one supposes. This 12” captures Whitfield as a guide through post-industrial dystopia, pointing a dim, flickering bulb into dark corners. These four tracks have structural similarities, but rather than being predictably “song structured,” the album takes on a trance-inducing quality with its ebb and flow.
“Crawling Home” opens with distant percussive washes, like basin water dripping onto a discarded sheet of metal. What the insert describes as “hissing steam” and “crowbars … on concrete” is not far off. The opening ambiance is restrained, and reminiscent of street sounds echoing through a massive bunker, wind and tire hums and car horns bouncing off damp concrete surfaces, echoing into a murmur. When the electronics start, they feel physically closer; the edges are more defined, louder with less reverb—the sensation of a body stepping out of the shadows directly in front of you. The rhythm kicks on, and suddenly “Crawling Home” feel less like a drunken night out and more like a terrified escape attempt, all elevated heart-rates and knees across pavement.
“Hunting & Ingrown” is much more compositionally staggered. A slowly oscillating drone hums as blasts of electronics and bass rumble punch in and out of the feed. The percussion track sounds more organic, acoustic. The contrast between electronic and acoustic feels pronounced, as though the decision was made to amplify, contrast, and conflict. At points, the noise washes over everything almost to the point of submersion but no signal ever fully overtakes another, generating a push-and-pull dynamic, engaging the audience’s sense of focus constantly.
The B-side follows suit accordingly, with “Pemphigoid” returning to the distant, cavernous reverberations. What the insert describes as “heavy doors” and “thick fog” applies; a steady bass tone hums beneath the metallic washes. Slowly, the drone gains volume until the entire piece stops dead. There is just barely a pause before “Quatro Plate” opens with a cinematic, percussive boom, more akin to Akira or Ran. The track is primarily an exercise in scrap-metal percussion, but it works from a narrative perspective. The B-side is on a downward trajectory, slowly losing pieces, falling apart and into disrepair (much like the factory photograph featured on the sleeve). The parts have all seized up, rusted shut, or crumbled away, leaving only the acoustic percussion of water and debris on steel and iron.
Is this album particularly groundbreaking? No, but that is far from saying this album is bad. The elements of this album are performed well, and the moodiness of the compositions carries just enough dread to build suspense. This is one of the great successful attributes noise carries intrinsically: without a reliance on pre-established structures, sound becomes more narrative and descriptive, less declaratory and more suggestive. If anything, this is a great album that I can definitely see myself returning to from time to time. From the bleached stucco scratchiness of the white noise to the reverberating bass crunches, to the syncopated rhythms, this is a solid 12” release that really succeeds without overreaching. In its own weird way, this is what people should think of when you hear “warehouse rave”: gritty, vaguely foreboding, but still driven. The label describes the album as “blacker than a landlord’s soul”; certainly not less than, to say the least.
A1) Crawling Home
A2) Hunting & Ingrown
B2) Quatro Plate