[13 November 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Take me to a place where the drugs are free, the clubs have no gravity, and every shag guarantees an orgasm!
—Lulu from Human Traffic
Impossible as it may seem, Lulu’s ecstatic dream is that much closer to being realized with the release of the eagerly awaited sophomore album from Younger Brother. Simon Posford drove most of the way to that end as a founder of Twisted Records, home to the finest psytrance and psydub ever pooled from ambrosia for the betterment of us mortals. Through Twisted, he has been heavily altering the course of electronic music history with his down to business solo work as Hallucinogen and as half of Shpongle with Raja Ram. The latter project takes credit for three of the most hypnotic, trip-inducing albums the genre has ever seen, with a fourth promised for early 2008.
Back in ‘03, Posford got together with label underling Benjamin “Prometheus” Vaughan, who has since become a notable name in the scene on the back of two solid solo full-lengths, and released their debut LP later that year. A Flock Of Bleeps was far from an embarrassment in its execution, but the previously established styles of each producer somewhat awkwardly dominated the work. There were flashes of brilliance, but most of the time it sounded like just one person could have made the whole record alone. Several years later and obviously wiser, The Last Days Of Gravity has that especially rare earmark of undeniable genius swelling from two legends in their own time into a singular vision for the common good of all those who bask in its light.
Simon and Ben are no longer merely throwing their sounds together and seeing what sticks. Now it appears they are really pushing each other into new realms. The Last Days Of Gravity is an epic journey through sampled plains of found sound manipulation, propelled by foot itching synth tweaks and that recognizable glowing psytrance bass. The opening “Happy Pills” is an adventure in itself, starting with reverberated plinks and assorted ambient layers, progressing to busier programming and live guitar bastardization over a mind blowing, infectious chill stage dance beat. The following “All I Want” kicks it up a notch with a rolling trance bassline and a slick pedal steel guitar trading whimsy with digitally bursting bubble synth stabs, blanketing the track with sketchiness after a “paranoiac” intro. Outdoing that, the next track, “Elephant Machine” raises the BPM a little while adding a pixelated bad-trip vocal sample to more Shpongle like world instrument loop layering, an upright bass, and the odd creepy Portishead sound. Each track is an inspiring step in this crucial quest.
“I Am A Freak” is the obvious centerpiece of the work. It bookends the refrain “I am a freak / I am unique” around a rock progression bassline that deliciously breaks down and rebuilds itself half way through with a complimentary guitar line amidst moments of what sounds like a Nord ping-pong ball stretched quasi-dimensionally, dropping hints of Middle Eastern influence sonically and vocally. I’ve never heard such a simple vocal sample so mangled before, joining the melody as a synthetic accompaniment briefly before returning to recognizable human femininity. I could ramble on forever about that electronic gem. You can’t help but see a whole field of neon encrusted candy ravers floating away on nitrous balloons during its nine minutes of bliss, leaving only a teaming pool of head banging mosh-pitters raising a sea of fists and screaming glory.
Playing their two albums back to back, it is easy to see that the production value is markedly fuller, richer, and more advanced on The Last Days Of Gravity . The cheeky old nods to Brass Eye and Withnail & I have been usurped by a dedicated focus on serious dance, and Gawd damn if it doesn’t work perfectly. The ethos is simple; this is catharsis in sound. Inhibitions don’t stand a chance in its wake.