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Closed Circuits
Breaker Tristan Bath , December 4th, 2015 18:51

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Over nothing more than a sparse and simple beat gently swaying like a ship over calm waters, Chris Page (aka Closed Circuits) breathily groans a forlorn song of memories drifting away across the sea. "Songs would wash away beneath/Drifting on the undertow/Far away from you and me." The song evolves with warm synth pads creeping into the sparse mix, managing to capture something of The Blue Nile's majesty in the midst of an album constantly struggling between synthetic noise and organic melody. The song ends with Page's woeful refrain, "sometimes I forget".

Closed Circuits has quietly self-released a handful of killer albums in recent years, interlacing the crunch and noise stab of industrial music with sparse songwriting anchored by Page's deep baritone. I first encountered Page via his vocal contributions to London-based chameleonic producer Imaginary Forces' Filth Columnist album - deeply shamanesque intonations that sound every bit as omniscient as Julian Cope's narrative on SunnO)))'s 'My Wall'. It seems like Closed Circuits' solo work has drifted away from the blasts of lo-fi noise and violence that populated earlier works, and further towards those much more scattered post-industrial beats and doomy incantations. His 2013 cassette tape self-release .156 explored the Closed Circuits persona, wandering far beyond becoming just another bedroom noise maker. It wound up encapsulating something resembling an (even more) sombre Nick Cave-esque approach to songwriting, mired in homespun British industrial fuzz. This latest effort, out this time on 12" vinyl, was recorded during a period living over on the other side of the world from his London home, in an attic room in West Sydney, and heads ever deeper into Closed Circuits' inner abyss.

The relative personal isolation of the music-making environment here limits Page's sonic toolkit to vocals and VSTs, but the influence of his time in Sydney (and particularly the sea) permeates the songwriting. The album opens with a densely noise-addled take on a traditional dirge from the Isle of Mull, titled 'Heavy The Beat Of The Weary Waves', followed by 'The Ships' mentioned at the start of this review. Elsewhere 'Asylum Harbour' gathers a pulsating bed of static and beats atop a droning intro, with Page again singing in seafaring metaphors: "the weight won't hold / your ships are made of stone". 'Janitor Of The Arcades' aesthetically breaks rank, swapping percussive beats, bass and fuzz for a staccato synthetic string section, plodding along in an altogether much more wholesome and uplifting manner. It's perhaps the album's most outright beautiful moment, reaching for the familiar (and perfectly synthesized) sounds of plucked strings. Page almost comes across as a Scott Walker type, delivering a towering bittersweet vocal performance that reaches far beyond the confines of his attic room. The lyrics are uniformly wonderful too, again recalling the lilting poetry of late-60s Scott Walker, both cryptic and overflowing with romance. "So with fire and silken ribbons / I cast off my regret/And made promises I could not deliver/But knew I would soon forget."

The title track ushers us towards the end of the album, with haunted reverb-heavy piano notes and a distant vocal track recalling the never matched atmospheres of Mogwai's Young Team, breaking into a rush of static climactic static and bass tones before a sample of Page's family announcing "the waves are breaking". 'Lotus Eaters' closes the album with more melancholy piano notes while a rush of processed skittered snare patterns flood the background sounding uncannily like heavy rain falling on a window pane.

For an album so riddled with alien digital noises, Breaker is a stunningly beautiful and intensely human trip. The fuzzily grey backdrop exploited by Closed Circuits, littered with sparse virtual piano and drum notes, is a truly potent one. His deep voice wields no small degree of inescapable power too. For anybody who's heard his previous work, it's certainly the next logical step in Closed Circuits' development as a songwriter, crafting subtler backings for increasingly deep songs, written from more intimate places. The ghostly presence of the sea at the heart of Breaker reflects the endless nooks, crannies, and trenches of emotion left to discover. It's a journey to the last spots of the Earth left unexplored by humans.