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As Above So Below Ollie Zhang , September 23rd, 2016 13:36

The days of chatting to someone known as Pepsiholic11, xXPunkRockPonyXx or ABeatleGal are probably long gone for most, but now a kind of nostalgia for the nineties and early noughties (and the days of AIM and MSN Messenger) is fairly trendy. For most, Soccer96 probably connotes a time where the internet was full of possibilities, and when IM speak was new and exciting.

For a group whose name alludes to some kind of millennial nostalgia, their moniker at first glance seems incongruous with their sound — and their sonic ambitions of seemingly cosmic proportions. Yet there’s a quality to 'Soccer96' that is oddly fitting with the wide ranging influences and styles of As Above So Below. The record is a sonic regurgitation of acid jazz, krautrock, afrobeat, techno and everything in between — with a substantial dose of mushrooms added to the mix. It’s got a kind of breadth that only musicians accustomed to having access to any and all musics at the tip of their fingers could offer.

As Above So Below carries with it a sense of simultaneity - a sound of 'today' far different from one that an artist like Holly Herndon might offer. Tinges of Fela Kuti, Can, MGMT and Silver Apples colour the album. Maxwell "Betamax" Hallett and Dan "Danlogue" Leavers accomplish impressive time-and-space-hopping across many musics, both in and out of the album - the two also manage to find time to play, record and produce alongside anyone from Sons of Kemet to Hot Head Show; from Yussef Kamaal to Scratcha DVA, among others.

A decent synopsis of the record can be found in Leavers’ playlist for "hyperdimensional hypnosis," which offers Zombie Zombie "snorting cosmic dust off of vintage disco machines" as well as assistance from Ash Ra Tempel in "navigat[ing] around one’s own ego." In contrast to the understated epithet, then, Leavers’ lively choice of language clearly signals their psychedelic intentions: this is music that could only made by a duo whose constituents would liken Monopoly Child Star Searchers to a "transcendent mushroom collective attaining oneness through percussive meditation through the night," or describe their own music as "a beautiful, nonsensical voyage into serendipity."

For all this lofty, acid-fueled talk, the record is nonetheless substantial. As Above So Below opens with 'The Swamp', a slow introduction into the multicoloured universe of Soccer96 which features polyrhythms and murky synth sounds abound. A racing saxophone solo is also unleashed, as well as synth meanderings reminiscent of Marshall Allen and his EWI.

Shiny and shimmering, 'Megadrive Lamborghini' and 'Feels Right' amble further into pop, echoing the heyday of MGMT and Empire of the Sun. On these tracks it sounds like the duo is on the verge of territory that they might not want to follow the Postal Service into, and though these moments are arguably the most tired and least compelling of the record, they seem all too appropriate given 96's apparent affinity for the somewhat kitsch. At times, they fall back on worn-out pop tropes, and in these moments lack the intrigue and oomph of their work with Shabaka Hutchings as The Comet is Coming.

'Spirit Wobble' summons the sound of a spirit that sounds an awful lot like Thom Yorke — a friendlier cousin of Kid A, complete with haunting vocals sat atop shuddering synths. 'Between The Whole and The Void' employs a structural openness that is welcome before submersion in the fittingly titled 'Brutal Deluxe'. The final track escalates into the urgency of an acid peak; full of vivid colours and discombobulating sounds. At times, it echoes some of the spectacular moments of Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz.

As Above So Below, like its tracks, is appropriately named and complete with all of the dubious profundity of a first trip. Soccer96 is a duo that attempts sonic time travel, and it works - they could play anywhere from the era of liquid light shows to the noughties, without ever being too out of place.

The duo have stated that their "aim was to monitor the effects on the conscious mind when accelerating musical elements at great velocities into high energy collisions," using "specific genre plasm" and "sonic compounds with completely alien properties" in the process. It's a perfect encapsulation of the record - a little bit trite, but spectacular nonetheless. The album attempts to take listeners on an ambitious sonic voyage to the 80s, 90s, and tomorrow, hoping to sound like above, below, and everywhere at once.