French electronic producer Kangding Ray and Mogwai’s Barry Burns first conceived their collaboration as SUMS back in 2013, enlisting the percussive skills of drummer Merlin Ettore for a performance at that year’s Berlin Atonal festival. Four years on, this self-titled 12” EP offers up the group’s debut, collecting together three tracks that showcase the trio’s vivid, almost seamless fusion of post-rock and experimental electronic elements. As you’d expect given the artists involved here, the emphasis falls distinctly upon vast, sweeping and emotive soundscapes.
‘Budapest’ offers up an expansive and foreboding opening as mournful minor key synths weave their against looming distorted bass drones, and slow metallic percussion, the gauzy synths rising like a layer of haze as showers of what sound like treated guitar tones and dubbed out cymbals ripple through the mix. If there’s a sense of the constantly building tension never really being released, ‘Matha’ opts for a completely different path entirely, sending a robust 4/4 kickdrum pulse rolling against woozy phased synth trails as delay-strewn guitar chords reach towards the horizon, the sense of melancholic resignation in their weary tones propelled to a completely different place by the driving layers of reassembled live drum breaks and swirling synths that swell triumphantly beneath them.
On the flipside, ‘Nomads’ offers up the real epic here, as ominously chiming guitar strokes and seismic tribal drums set the scene, howls of guitar feedback arcing like ghosts against sheeny electronically-treated percussion fills, before a tight 4/4 techno kickdrum pulse suddenly locks in, the flurries of live metallic percussion locking into the rhythm like layers of armour, as the hypnotic layers of ebbing guitar start driving towards the forefront of the track, sending things speeding off towards the horizon, creeping unease included. While there are undeniable traces of the various players’ separate groups and activities here, ‘SUMS’ sees their musical contributions combining to create an impressive hybrid that’s distinctly new. It’s also easily one of the most impressive debuts I’ve heard so far this year.