Tokyo-based electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist Tim Byrnes has previously released an EP on Metal Postcard under the Block 55 alias, but this debut album under his new ?Redo From Start band moniker ‘Vacuum And The Shell’ sees him attempting something different, the stated aim being to apply modern dance music production methods to other unexpected styles of music, thus ripping them out of their usual dance-based context. It’s an approach that results in some extreme diverse and unpredictable fusions amongst the eleven tracks here, even if there’s the occasional sense of Byrnes perhaps trying to cram in slightly too many different things at once. While there’s a discernible melancholy noir-pop aesthetic lurking at the heart of this album, it’s a treacherously shifting collection that’s tricky to pigeonhole, and often all the better for it.
If opening track ‘Wires’ suggests a dreamlike adventure ahead as delicate treated guitar strokes intersect with tinkling bell tones, it doesn’t take long for clattering hiphop beats and spooky pitched-down vocals to take things into considerably darker territory, the eerie guitar figures rearing up against growling vocoders and vast dubstep drops lock in beneath the instrumentation. ‘Black Syrup’ meanwhile injects a sense of hiphop meets folk swagger into its step placing boom-bap rhythms against shimmering layers of cut-up acoustic guitar while a bizarre unhinged vocal gets pushed through all manner of filtering, before ‘Balloon’ sees the dark buzzing dubstep elements shifting back to the forefront amidst bleeping electronics as Byrnes’ vocals get cut up and scattered all over the place, the arrival of an irate sampled rant from US TV offering up one of this album’s most disturbing moments as the serrated sub-bass drops prowl back and forth. While there’s the occasional sense here that Byrnes is wilfully trying to obscure his strong grip of dark pop hooks with layers of manipulated vocals and electronic trickery, ‘Vacuum And The Shell’ is a strong debut.