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Sunday, 21 July 2013

SubVersion Stop 198: Refractive Assuaging Musically Explained

Refractive assuaging = effected experience.

Refractive assuaging = lateral thinking of digits, symbols and time-codes.

Refractive assuaging = flexing and bending a certain set of variables to activate new ones.

This construct arose - like "Transcendental introspection" - from a Fluid Radio review in 2012. The review - "Refractor - Locus Suspectus" - collated a quote, also, from Carl Rogers concerning psychotherapeutic approaches to contact with individuals. I've selected, like last time, three releases to get the basics across in a creative way.

Visage - Hearts And Knives (Pylon Records)

29 years on from their last album seems to have done both vital and vacuous things to Visage. On the plus, they've honed their take on New Wave romantic synth Pop into more than a nostalgic trifle. On the minus, they sound at home with the uber-produced chart Pop of the noughties.

Dedicated to Martin Rushent, who died an untimely death in 2010, Visage's "Hearts And Knives" is the product of a mindset that "if you loved 'Fade To Grey (1980)', you'll at least really like this". It's true. The tree-like symptomatica of Steve Strange's voice on opener "Never Enough" sees "I'm turning the soul / Now I'm out of control / 'Cos it's never enough, never enough no". Whereas "Shameless Fashion" refractively assuages with metaphors like "temptation was born out of envy".

The vocals are thought-provoking and absorbing everything in their path, Steve Strange's traditional C key voice rising and gliding like a dove over the waves in travel to a distant land. "Lost In Static" and its pulse is bracing, the beat and bass that enters after a short introduction avoiding jettison of the shoegaze guitar, also minus the aggression. The assuage here is from the contagious interlocking of synths, guitars, vocals (backing and lead) and overall plodding tempo to create something bigger than the sum.

The sense of bewilderment from constant refraction of yes/no matrixes, right/wrong junctures and yin/yang enumerations punctures the multiple personality interpretation of the vocal themes in "I Am Watching". "There's no reason you should see me / There's no reason you should know / I am here / I don't want to think from you now / I just need to know you're there" predate the paranoid android lurching of "Diaries Of A Madman" ("Needing a shrink, there's nothing wrong with my brain") perfectly. These two tunes are rife with great lyricism that sucks you in, and importantly bends its' light shined upon the listener to reveal more on each listen.

The final breath on "Breathe Life" sounds an impending sigh of relief: Visage still have it - they just kept it under wraps for 29 years. "Be who you are, and say what you feel" / "Those that mind, they don't matter" / "Those that matter, they don't mind" / "If they don't matter, leave them behind" is an excellent wordplay scheming under a casual New Romantic ballad sound, a more sedate Spandau Ballet without the forced hooks. "Hearts And Knives", in culminated opinion, sees Steve Strange and his group venture into new territory while displaying all the hallmarks of classic revolvent retrospectivity. Bravo.


Bat For Lashes - iTunes Festival London 2012 - EP (iTunes Media)

The majority of material on Natasha Khan - aka Bat For Lashes' - iTunes festival session occupies a refractive glow back onto her whole ouevre and mystical demeanour, and the majority comes from her second album, "Two Suns". it's a great introduction and primer for her sound as much as it is a standalone collection of five renditions. "Travelling Woman (Live)" actually manages to sound better than the recorded version - possibly a result of the piano lead being kept traditionally raw and uncut from the production gloss.

Her sound is one of Art Pop carefully reimagined as a children's story dealing with the forces of nature. "Make you tired, tell you lies, make you fall" is a gloriously sung refrain at the back end of the chorus that resonates as an ode to her previous relationship with the "Daniel" that she wrote a song about, travelling between the United Kingdom and New York City. Whoever it's about though, there's enough transcendental introspection to rise anew.

It sounds as if the festival sequencing for the tracklist is meant to juxtapose several angles of Natasha's sound, from the aforementioned ballad, to "Glass (Live)" with its Drum & Bass tempo half-time tightrope walking drama. So you'll hear tunes not sitting uniform with each other - an aspect that refractive assuaging capitalises on when the music is as ephemeral and ethereal as this. The emotional filling is like a set of onion rings and egg: tasty and tasteful, savoury side orders to a gorgeous grilled steak - the steak here being a medium-rare Rib Eye in a kit, backbone for the compositions of having something on your plate.

Natasha's voice is sultry, stylish, never contrived and full of sass. Her rendition of "Horse And I", piece one from her debut album "Fur And Gold" plays powerfully live, the drums shuffling like an angled furniture arranger towards a victorious end. In whatever language, Bat For Lashes are assuaging for your senses - you'd do well to track down any of Khan's albums and, fail to be impressed by it? Not possible, seriously.


Prevrat - Symbols (Russian Winter)

Ric Gordon's vocal themes require close attention to reap the parametric ostentation bestowed upon them by the gloopy synthesizers and silvery polish. I had several mishearings of lyrics throughout "Symbols" which gives it its own lateral character - and ultimately, a refractive assuage that ingests the vital input from the context and techniques.

Because its sequencing shoehorns A-B traditional phrasing for neo-liberal takes on acoustic fusion, Ric is able to project an ever-changing myriad, collagist outlook to his soundscapes. This works one of three ways. First, it buffers your attention on the uptake. Second, it decreases the moments of dirge. As a final outcome, it formulates honeysuckle Indie sound.

Gordon channels the spirit of Gordon Lightfoot on "Abandoned", the lyrics "You lose your soul to the one that you love" / "While walking the streets to find that you're the only one feeling" / "Never mind spending half of your life" / "Just to find that love will leave you abandoned" approaching an "If You Could Read My Mind" dissolved anarchy. He gets close to Nu-Rave on "Traffic", but the synth Pop-meets-post-punk songcraft keeps the sonic consciousness from bombing out at the last hurdle to glitz and glamour. "A blue car crashes on my mood all the time" is a swell opening/closing couplet to the first verse, the song steeped in Gary Numan's "Cars" reimagined by Cabaret Voltaire and The Teardrop Explodes' Julian Cope. 

It's unsurprising on listening that "Symbols", Prevrat's first LP since "Intelligent Discontent" in 2012 has been so well received in the blogosphere, with this the 41st feature of Prevrat's material at the time of writing. For every flight of fancy there's a rockist swoop of new-fangled nerves; for every attempt at dichotomy, there's a veering into the pseud. This angularity and reinvention of the formats Ric carries with him goes very well with a cool beer on a lazy summer's evening. and as far as refractive assuaging is concerned, Prevrat, to quote Rene Zellweger, "Had me at hello".



"Refractive assuaging" are transcendent keywords for what affects your experience, in whatever positive way.

The need for putative language in music or even 'fan' journalism negotiates that we're at one or odds with every new trend, and keywords such as this and their malleability give us a certain edge to inject new ideas into conversation.

Music is less and less seen as a transcendent experience the more it fragments. This is because there is less looking at a full circle for the music in question and more putting-in-a-box. Keywords like these do away with this ideal and are intersectional.

I hope you enjoy the releases reviewed. :)

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