‘Environs’, the new release from Laica follows the excellent ‘Puls’ from earlier this year. Like ‘Puls’, ‘Environs’ is split into two halves of absorbing electronica, this time sourced entirely from manipulated field recordings. It builds on the excellent sound design of its predecessor while pushing its structures further into abstraction.
‘Environs 1’ is immediately intricate and beautiful. Bird song is dropped into dub techno echoes, tiny clicks abound and multiply. The pall of thin gossamer fuzz from ‘Puls’ returns, lending the production an aged and gnarled atmosphere. An almost-rhythm gradually builds itself over time, beats, clicks, and cuts, steadily gathering together. The bird song is clipped and woven among the many snapping percussive claps and buried in the occasional burst of bass. The momentum is unhurried; an Autechre-like fracturing occurs frequently, splintering any forward drive into shards. Alien in its intricacy, there is an odd, difficult to grasp logic at work. It sounds like a machine slowing gathering sentience, pieces falling into place. The sound design is wonderful, shorn of its percussive element; it would work as an effective piece of ambient drone.
’Environs 2’ is no less inscrutable. Rapidly cycling clicks and bit-crushed buzz flickers at the periphery of a howling wind; they rush to the foreground and intrude occasionally but disperse back into the corners as fast as they arrive. There is a churning central atomised mass struggling to find a contiguous form but settling instead for an amorphous non-shape, fascinating and full of alien contours. Again, an atmosphere of dread pervades, dark and unsettled. Fragments of rhythm refuse to sit still for long. An unresolved tension builds a head of steam. The beauty of this side is that it doesn’t resolve in a simple noise crescendo or percussive burst. It simply dissipates without you being able to get a firm hold of it; this only invites further exploration.
‘Environs’ is a real headphones-in-the-dark album; a work to mull over and return to repeatedly. Mysterious and pulsing with menace; it consists of what feels like several distinct sections, but with the edges melted and smeared together; like Burial remixing Thomas Köner. A steady beat will threaten to emerge but then disappear and collapse before it truly gets going. At times it flirts with industrial music with some harsh textures and what sounds like clanking ultra-amplified gong strikes. It has a hermetic structural logic all its own, a puzzle to unlock; avant-electronica that makes the listener do some of the hard work. An intelligent, mature and engaging album.