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IX Tab
R.O.C. Richard Fontenoy , May 5th, 2015 10:47

Where IX Tab's earlier Spindle And The Bregnut Tree was lusciously and admirably in thrall to the heroically named Saxon Roach's observance of all things Coilish and tentacular, on R.O.C. he takes what no-one is calling the Englyshe Wyrd Electronicks template and proceeds to make it his own.

R.O.C. sounds so disorienting at times that it seems as if inebriation has been brought upon the very atmosphere, like when the corners of the room in an HP Lovecraft story become smogged and dankly unfamiliar, assuming an unnatural geometry that signifies the presence of an unwholesome other, just as the shrill, keening tones that IX Tab summon pierce deep and lastingly into the brain. This album isn't so much haunted as pushing at the boundaries of the so-called hauntological movement, as encountered among the ticking, almost childlike splendour of the bass-heavy 'A Drunken Bone (Of Chrome)', where a timestretched voice quoting Beaudelaire advises the listener to "be drunken... all of the time... continually... it is the hour to be drunken".

IX Tab's derangements of the senses are more subtle in their approach than the sometimes scattergun plunderphonic approach others have deployed over the years, though he shares with that method the extended use of sampled spoken words and sung tones from time to time. Roach deploys his psychogeographical and hypnosis tape samples liberally but with a thoughtful, heavily psychedelic ear for the joys of audio befuddlement. R.O.C. cries out for listening to in a darkened room on headphones, or better still in a suitably spooky, psychically charged environment, such as an abandoned tower on the moors or deep in a mysterious lichen-covered deconsecrated chapel on the borderlands between the mundane and magical worlds.

This literary channelling of the likes of Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgeson and the psychedelic derangements of David Lindsay's bizarre interstellar mindbender A Voyage To Arcturus is never especially gothic; what Roach makes eldritch is not the lifestyle accessories but almost the actual air between the speakers and the ears receiving the soundwaves. At least, that's how it seems if disbelief is properly suspended, preferably over a yawning chasm of existential abandon; and that's what the glacial dubs and heightened audiobook dementia of R.O.C. often sounds like the music is suspended so precariously, deliriously above.

'Parhelion' slouches waifishly into view like a slow(er) motion Spacemen 3 – or more likely, Sonic Boom's Spectrum – drenched weightlessly in yet more reverb and shimmering in an opiate haze until a languorous beat brings gravity into the equation. IX Tab's music resonates wildly with both the the deep-down psychic explorations of a space cadet and a personal occult mystical vision which could quite easily (and by rights should be) be found soundtracking a murderously humorous Ben Wheatley film.

The opening of the doors of wonky perception is particularly keenly applied on 'Blowm (For Alan Turing)'. It uncurls like the bastard godchild of Coil's 'First Dark Ride', in an epic slurry of distended beats and wavery treated voices that smear over urgent rhythms with a cumulative effect similar to watching the world melt into red and green lysergic trails, its unsettling interjections of smoke alarm bleeps guaranteed to cause a mild sensation of panic, pressing the little red button in the brain marked 'fear'. Nowhere is this disturbance more apparent than in the fraying of the narrator's psyche mirrored by the sounds being scattered like so much chaff in the solar winds while the rhythms propel the tune forward over the void by a combination of shear force of habit and persistent determination.

So to listen to R.O.C. is to be given the impression that what so easily gets confused with reality would seem to be on the blink again. The machine elves have been transforming themselves once more, taking control of the music as they go, just for the impish pleasure to be had from shifting signs and making things unheimlich, as those pesky electronic piskies are known to do as the mood strikes them.

This trip – and it is a trip – which Roach takes the listener on is a magic(k)al mystery detour round the neural pathways and dopamine conductors of a brain extracted by way of electronic alchemy and occult science from the skull and sent floating in a free-form journey into who knows where. R.O.C conducts a voyage down the rabbit hole where the rodents are particularly strange and there's no certainty that any pet animals, chess pieces or talking lobsters encountered en route will be entirely friendly.

As an exercise in wilfully lysergic daymares, the album works its pervasive way into the texture of the surrounding environment. The repetition and slews of synthesis alike drawing the narrative from one surreal motif to the next as Thai monks chant up against over-excited hippy demagogues. All this and more is stirred into a heady whirl in Roach's electronic cookpot, blending, separating and recombining into strange new alchemical forms whilst maintaining the queasy Brownian motion of a nice strong cup of mushroom tea.