6 & 8 – City Plaintive / Hind Legs (Xylem)

6 & 8 are a duo of electronic music producer Rory McCormick and poet / vocalist Jessica Peace.  The second song on ‘City Plaintive’ epitomises what makes them such a great band.  ‘Opening City Plaintive’ is full of thick sad chords.  A maudlin instrumental, interspersed with traffic noise; a background whooshing like wind under a bridge; the environmental sounds and music meshing perfectly.  A melody lost in the city, swallowed; much as you will be by this excellent album.  Its highlights are many but a few stick out like particularly memorable faces in a crowd of vivid oddity.
‘Girl on Steps’ mixes sub bass wobble, moaning traffic, tick-tock woody beats, and, at one point, a voice stretched into a flattened sighing wave.  The discernible vocals: “cold steps”, “watching the flock”, “on the steps”, are as fragmented as the music.  The words “this is not my city” would suggest alienation if the city belonged to anyone at all.  It is the possession of everyone and no one.  Individuals, mere temporal blips in its paws.
‘Possible Interlude’ is full of amplified pops, cracks, and hissing; a degraded opera recording swoops and soars, buried as the page turns onto street noise and steel pan before a fade-back to the singer, voices bleeding in at the edges.
‘Then Him Then Her’ is structured around a rapid percussive seizure of flickering digital jazz breaks; Peace intoning “I was on that train” through a metallic filter.  An endless loop of “I was with him, you were with her, I wanted to be with him…” begins to sound like several conversations overlapping in time, running out of phase, denuded of context.  A monastic chant intrudes; the banal and devotional in opposition. 
‘Halo of the Moon’ is captivating and beautiful.  Several rhythmic elements compete: glitchy pops, sharply synthetic bips, high register shivers; all melted in a wash of strummed guitar distortion.  The vocals are oblique and enticing, “did you ever see the halo of the moon”, “turn the lights off”, “everything looks better in the dark”.  An evocation of something just out of reach.
‘City Plaintive’ is a brilliant, fascinating album.  Mysterious but not impenetrable, it promises a little more with each listen; new sounds, weird buried samples, previously unnoticed audio spaces.  I’ve been listening to it for weeks and still notice odd bits and pieces I hadn’t heard before; as if the album is in constant flux, pieces shifting while you’re not listening to it.  Like the cities it wanders, new alleyways appear, buildings vanish, forgotten signs point to demolished tunnels; a magical sound-scrapbook of a city in constant flux; an exploration of the weirder parts of the mind and cityscape.

‘Hind Legs’ is just as weird and captivating.  ‘Walkaway’ incorporates snatches of breath, pops and crackles, and what sounds like an underwater clock or piece of wheezing hospital machinery; everything feels physically close, listening on headphones feels like you’re in the room with them.  ‘Gag’ is an attack of digitally crunching violence; storm-tossed industrial glitch; a soft pillow of synth drone is occasionally evident but buried beneath a hammering rhythm.  ‘Fourth Floor’ sounds melted and smeared, like strange trees whipping past a train window; a melody is glimpsed in snatches, over time, the blur all that remains; a wet, vastly magnified gargle drowns the track as it is overrun with humming bloops.  ‘Brutalist’ is a flickering shimmer; beautiful but with a serrated edge; a tour of a building abruptly switches to biological descriptions: a body exploded to infrastructural size.  ‘Cinderella’ is full of harsh buzz and bass hum; the vocals drawling “backseat” “lips hard” “she pushed me on the floor”; a remarkable song, deeply strange and absorbing; oddly seductive, like sex music for scrapped androids.

The vocals are intertwined with the music throughout; a vital counterpoint, they often sit high in the mix, zooming in on individual anatomies: lips and thighs, hands and limbs.  Jessica’s voice is a human element among deep plunging alien weirdness.

‘Hind Legs’ is like Oneohtrix Point Never soundtracking ‘Snow Crash’; human language smashed into memes and looped clipped babble; compositions built from cultural detritus, leaky lurid synth textures, and vinyl crackle.

There is something deliciously eerie and forcefully intimate about 6&8, like seeing feet poking out of the bottom of a closed pair of curtains when you know you’re alone in the house, an image of your anguished face painted onto each toenail. 

6 & 8

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