The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Archaeology jonny mugwump , December 8th, 2011 11:35

After a string of releases on various labels (including Bob Bhamra’s most excellent West Norwood Cassette Library genre-mashing stable) Milyoo, aka Tommy Wilson, returns to Subeena’s distinctive Opit imprint for his debut album, the appropriately named Archaeology.

Milyoo operates in that most seemingly unforgiving of creative zones - abstract dance. That’s actually a useless description anyway (any classic rave or jungle record is at least as fucked-up as anything by Stockhausen) so let’s do that thing most prevalently despicable in music journalism and compare his music to someone else: The Residents. Ok, so Milyoo doesn’t actually sound like The Residents (well, except for certain vocal manipulations, which occupy a shared borderland of slightly malignant hysteria) but the four giant eyeballs’ rampant dismembering of pop music operates on a similar scale to the whacked-out mutating of current bass tropes on display here.

Climbing mountains and dissecting Heidegger, Wilson is based in Kentucky. Perhaps it’s this geographical dislocation from any UK scene that explains some of the fresh idiosyncrasies on display here, and indeed it’s hard to bring to mind many other producers operating with such a sublime and surreal grasp of dynamics. Maybe two more useful sonic comparisons might be fellow American FaltyDL’s slippery genre-skimming and Flying Lotus’ textural overload, but this doesn’t quite do Milyoo’s uniquely skewed productions justice. However, after such a prolonged release run of crazed productions, it's impressive that Archaeology finds Wilson shifting his manic aesthetic into a very satisfactory long-playing experience.

‘Fieldwork’ fades in slowly, a single slightly off-kilter drum accompanied by a revolving flat queasy-string loop. Within a minute arrives a myriad of trapdoor vocal samples (“put the key under the mat”, and a million undecipherable utterances), stuttering percussive interruptions, clockwork-clattering tics and a buried nursery-rhyme melody. Gigantic 80s synth stabs usher in ‘Face To Face’, alongside carnivalesque melodic whirls, more bizarre sampled vocal manipulations – clips, curls and curves of voice (subliminal words dropping in, or just enough of a trace to generate your own Exquisite Corpse) and a meandering wobble-bass riff underpinning constant rhythmic variations. With a couple of seconds to catch a breath, ‘Dasein’ kicks its way in to view in all its mighty subterranean glory, with a cut-crystal cowbell and blown-glass melody gleefully bouncing on top of a planet-deep sub-beat.

Milyoo’s music is in constant motion – every second sounds like a new song, yet paradoxically each song sounds really short. If you were to remove the breaks, Archaeology would sound like the strangest rapid-fire ambient album you’re every likely to hear, and Wilson is as great a manipulator of sound as the Butthole Surfers - not a comparison to throw around lightly. But, more importantly (and somewhere where FlyLo, for example, has sometimes floundered) is that Wilson has allowed his sound room to develop and breathe. Space is the place, and it’s prevalent throughout – in the fractured, offworld demento-soul of ‘Tough Enough’ and the liquefied hall-of-mirrors exotica of ‘Down Like You’. However, because the dancefloor is never out of earshot, these blocks of cubist sound never burst at the seams, despite threatening to. This is actually incredibly sophisticated shit, Milyoo utilising a sonic camera parallel to the constant motion of Luis Bunuel’s restlessly roving eye in Phantom of Liberty.

‘Windows to Love’ sounds like a rave on the rooftops of the Tyrell Corporation HQ in Blade Runner, fragments of chipmunk funk collaged into an endless tropical LA wonderland built around a blissed-out 6am soul riff. Then finally the album reaches ‘Colours’: cyber-baby clarion calls, little crates of white noise being dragged around the floor of your mind, and an insistent stutter-synth. All looping menageries of voice, woodblock cracks, an almost maniacal overload of texture and melody, glued together with a glam-through-a-wormhole stomp, it’s one hell of a defiant way to close a debut album.

Milyoo has completely triumphed with these strange (space)ship-in-a-bottle sound worlds, This is sculpture in motion, the excavation of a vibrant and very alive alien pleasure-palace. Archaeology indeed.