Music Reviews
Dead Voices On Air

Dead Voices On Air

From Labrador to Madagascar

Invisible Records

The relentless and satisfyingly prolific Mark Spybey – a man who works just as well in his never-ending series of collaborations as he does alone, here delivers another transmission from his solo outlet, Dead Voices On Air. The discerning listener may detect similarities to Scorn, Download or Labradford, though only some. From Labradford to Madagascar feels like a highly personal and fraught travelogue; there’s a palpable sense of place at work here, a sonic psycho-geography with Spybey as a demented Amerigo Vespucci created new maps of hell for the 21st century. But it’s a distinctly human hell, don’t forget.

“Tongue Like Scree” sounds like a war march for a junkyard full of ham radios, treading across an urban dreamscape with their little headphone legs, prodded on by a steady drum tattoo and makeshift horns, in search of home. “Furtive” is just that, a tiny nervous synth minuet more like Satie or a hyperactive Eno with strange clicks and whirs in the background. After the almost punk-like length of the previous two tracks, Spybey and his Dead Voices really spread their wings with “Labrador” – a beatific organ drone pulses, shimmers and rises to the very roof of heaven, buoyed by a blur of looped, hyperactive tribal percussion. Darker shapes occasionally loom in the background, Almost hymn-like in its hushed, devotional focus.

“Halv” is a vertigo-stricken collage of clipped, back-masked vocals, reptilian percussion and instrumental treatments that all end up sounding like metallic aliens singing to one another or the audio portion of a warped, broken time capsule. “Grueland” layers bird calls and stretched and mangled human chants over a crackling funeral pyre and distant drones to create a cut-up expressionist painting of a possible future – grey, broken, a smoldering crater. “Papa Papa Nesh,” with heavily treated and echoed chorales that are stretched to the point of synthetics, hovering over digital drums aping a tribal cadence and a rising metallic pulse, seems to recreate a elements of a voodoo ceremony.

“Splay” feels like new wave drained of all lifeblood, left splattered and chopped up on a deserted dance floor, stripped clean save for a few elements – a stray handclap, the dim echo of a synth vamp, a malfunctioning drum machine – all slowed down to a tortured crawl. At about three minutes, wordless, heavily layered angelic chants begins, with waves of shifting ambiance like a bright white light, spiriting the song away on the wings of some divine hope. Choral vocals intertwine, harmonize and burst outward, before ascending to heaven and leaving behind a host of tiny little electronic machines desperately and quietly trying to approximate what just happened. “Sissili Mandjao” could be the soundtrack to a forced march through an alien bazaar, hear the herald’s horns signaling your passing, the drums marking your every step, glimpses around corners, where everything shimmers dark red and appears slightly-out-of-focus to your aching eyes.

Invisible Records:

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