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Steven Warwick
Moi Eden Tizard , November 22nd, 2019 08:47

Abandoning his former Heatsick moniker, Steven Warwick provides pranksterism with a purpose on new album Moi, finds Eden Tizard

Steven Warwick’s output over the past decade may be somewhat sporadic, but a constant throughout has been a distinctly sly sardonic slant.Take the title track of 2013’s Re-Engineering, an album of Casio subterfuge put out under his Heatsick moniker. Early on a Throbbing Gristle reference is hijacked by corporate jargon, the pun “second annual trend report”, while later a necessary rebuttal is levelled at nostalgia pushers Blur. “Modern life is still rubbish you say”, queries an almost automated voice, in reference to the group’s notorious album title. Well, “modern rubbish is still life”.

Since discarding his Heatsick pseudonym, vocals have come even further to the fore, language toyed with this slanted music. Moi is Warwick’s first album proper since 2016’s more introspective Nadir, that mini album/mixtape something of an audio travelogue, a documentation of time spent in three cities; Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin. Above all on that project, you felt as if you yourself were navigating through these artificial transient spaces; hotels, airports, shopping centres, the strange seduction of such seemingly innocuous environments.

Moi kicks off in far more pointed and outwardly looking territory, ‘Open Fire Hydrant’, a grim, jittery piece of pop-meets-club commotion. Warwick’s vocals strike a strange balance between playful and sarcastic. First line “temperature is rising” sets a tone of climate catastrophe, but lyrics then flit restlessly from one topic to the other, where a dogmatic commitment to rhyme appears at first to be the only constant.

Absurdist non-sequiturs aside, it has the fragmented feel of randomly collated headlines, tweets, and snatches of conversation. “Social interaction feels like a transaction” goes one line, “attending a riot, talk about your diet” goes another. I’ve seen Chris Morris name-dropped in relation to Warwick’s work before, and it makes a kind of sense. After all, both artists evidently share an interest in pranksterism with a purpose, as well as the desire to find humour amidst moments of deep existential dread.

To my ears, there is one small blemish on an otherwise great record: the track ‘Salvation’, where deliberately clunky synths and pitch-shifted vocals err on the side of grating. Otherwise, however, this is one of Warwick’s strongest sets so far. ‘Consolatio’ and ‘Danke' (feat Jo Pryde) are a pair of viscous ambient pieces which offset the record’s more beat driven whole, while the latter half of album closer ‘Silhouette’ shares similarities with the work of Pan affiliate Errorsmith, that same fondness for jerky percussion, texture wise dead set on all things shrill, high end, and vibrant.

Moi is a record driven by this kind of kinetic energy, even when it at times navigates through the most paranoid of head spaces, and the most of turbulent cultural moments.