Music

'Delphi' Is Antwood's Electronic Take on Love and Technology

Photo: Olivia Dreisinger / Courtesy of Planet Mu

With Delphi, Canadian electronic artist Antwood releases an ambitious collection of brash electronic music and a whole slew of genre pastiches yet to be invented.

Delphi
Antwood

Planet Mu

19 July 2019

Antwood loves playing with concepts. The Canadian electronic artist, born Tristan Douglas, released his last full-length album, Sponsored Content, in 2017, and it was a curious homage to the ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) phenomenon. His latest work, Delphi, focuses on the titular female character and the challenges she faces in modern relationships, often hampered by burdensome technology. Delphi often escapes to her namesake, the ancient Greek city she's named after her, and becomes lost in her fantasy.

If the story – conceived by Douglas and his girlfriend, Olivia Dreisinger – seems off-putting and perhaps overly rooted in fantasy, this is by no means a reason to ignore Delphi. For one thing, the narration segments are few and far between, to the point where they're practically secondary to the listening experience. Second, the music is absolutely stunning. The experimental bent of the album includes quite a comprehensive variety of musical styles. While obviously rooted in dance-oriented electronic music, there are echoes of neoclassical, ambitious pop, film scores, piano sonata form, and a whole slew of genre pastiches yet to be invented.

The character of Delphi makes her first appearance in the introductory track, "Skype Ghost", setting the scene after some brief, low-key instrumental fanfare: "It's kind of confusing when you wanna Skype and say all these intense things," she announces, "and then ghost me." Delphi makes her next appearance on the fifth track, "A Hostile Message", where she runs down a litany of technologically based situations that make relationships a challenge (under the same musical motifs as "Skype Ghost"). But while the concept creates something of a spine for the album, Douglas is content to let the music do most of the talking.

Among those musical highlights is the title track, a furious beast of breakneck tempo and stuttering synth arpeggios. The song is full of brash beats, keyboard assaults and pummeling electronic percussion. The following track, "Queasy", is the polar opposite in terms of tempo and energy, but the sluggish nature of the song, not to mention its mysterious and idiosyncratic effects (disembodied vocal samples, random finger snaps, running water) give the track an unsettling feel.

Elsewhere, "First Delphic Hymn (To Apollo)" uses Eastern musical cues to further the exotic flair of the album. "Cave Moth" is a fusillade of blips, belches, and futuristic beats that start and stop at an almost maddening rate. "Ecstatic Dance" is almost cinematic in the way the different sections are broken down. Fast, choppy sections are full of melodic bliss while the slower, more ponderous sections evoke the most breathtaking of film scores.

Possibly the most eclectic and inspiring song on Delphi is "Castalian Fountain", which contains nearly all the different aspects of the album distilled into five and a half minutes. Pastoral flutes and harp-like synths descend into dark, booming chaos, veering off into ethereal vocalizing and experimental trance beats. The song seems almost self-consciously all over the map, but to hear an artist like Douglas interpret his vision in such a deft, dazzling manner is quite a thing to experience. When the following song, "Delphi's Song", follows, the gentle solo piano acts as a welcome breather after so much tension.

The Delphi character makes her final appearance on "Some Dust". Her farewell monologue expresses confusion as to the events that preceded it. "I shut my eyes and think, 'what just happened? What's happening to me?'" After Delphi bows out, Douglas carries her off in a storm cloud of synthesized orchestrations. Curtain.

Delphi is a fascinating example of what an experimental artist of Douglas' caliber can do with arrangements, concepts, and a seemingly boundless arsenal of musical ideas. Delphi is one of those albums where the listener finds something new every time. The album's title character may distrust or dislike technology, but it provides a sumptuous experience for the rest of us.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.