A shiver of violin rattles the first breath Pleasure-Voltage takes. Drones bob this giggle of strings from below in an unsettling tide. Disjuncture and chaos is audible from the outset.
This kind of chaos can, in the wrong hands, derail a full-length release. Ideas tire and halt in their own destructive paths. Patience is tested. But Benjamin Finger, James Plotkin and Mia Zabelka have here ensured a consistent, considered LP. The disharmony between players, as in any good collaboration, absolutely invigorates their piece.
Their singular approaches entwine into one cavernous soundscape. It is as though each musician has been given free range within their set frequencies. The sound is, as a result, lush and full. Outside of guitar maestro Fennesz, it's rare to hear so few people sound this vast. The image of an orchestra materialises, despite this music sounding nothing like one.
So what does it sound like? Pleasure-Voltage is nigh-impossible to pin down, speaking in a language of contradictions.
There is an impalpable Baltic quality to it -- albeit with a 'Dead Flag Blues' twist of Americana. Resemblance to Edward Artemiev's scores for Tarkovsky must bear partial responsibility. Both works float in a liminal space; between knowing and unknowing. Familiar sounds and organic instrumentation struggle for dominance, battling synthesis; industrial, atonal abstraction.
Similar techniques mark Leyland Kirby's tremendous ongoing series, Everywhere at the end of time. Musical ideas and short phrases are introduced, then seconds later obliterated. You scrabble for what's underneath, below the layers of disorder. Snatches of speech and melody tease the ears. More so than a composition, Pleasure-Voltage sounds like the disassembly of a piece.
But where Kirby's work (intentionally) stretches time to an agonising length, Pleasure-Voltage compresses it. Later stages of Everywhere at the end of time feel purgatorial. Pleasure-Voltage is a short wave of panic; a coming-on and a going. It rockets to life, becomes all-consuming, then, delicate as a moth, it disappears.
The album's careful structure enhances this sensation. Chaotic when close-read, but take a step back. The structural rigour of a more 'ordered' LP reveals itself as Pleasure-Voltage's glue. And this is what prevents chaos becoming tiresome: care. Care buoys every individual second of this piece -- and blankets the whole, too. A wonderful listening experience.