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Special Cases
Special Cases Brian Coney , June 30th, 2020 07:16

A solo album from Föllakzoid’s Juan Pablo Rodriguez goes deep into homespun synth sorcery, finds Brian Coney

Last year, Föllakzoid underscored their rep as a band bridging cosmosis and pure-cut repetition like few others. Unlike many of their contemporaries, the Chilean trio’s furtherance of the more psalmic sounds of Krautrock, from Neu! to Ash Ra Tempel, has felt remarkably organic – amoebic even.

It’s a far-reaching orbit that can be traced right back to the freeform trial and occasional error of Special Cases. As bassist and vocalist, Juan Pablo Rodriguez is key to Föllakzoid’s tripped-out craft. As Special Cases, his explorative synth forays are what Stephen Lawrie of the Telescopes has accurately referred to as “a one man rave on a lone trip to beyond.”

Recorded in the salad days of Föllakzoid, circa 2011–2012, this eponymous release originally came out on cassette via ETCS Records in 2014. Now, thanks to a vinyl reissue on Weisskalt, it takes on a swath of new import.Wielding a spartan set-up of Roland synths and treated guitar, JPR’s sorcery here is wilfully homespun. It’s the unmistakable sound of close-eyed, witching hour tentation, and a rapt, feature-length perigee into far beyond.

Not least live, the push and pull of Föllakzoid’s music is rooted in the nigh on imperceptible. Rhythms don’t shift, they unfurl, a litany of motifs swirling around the same essential source. It’s something the longer tracks on Special Cases employs well. Tracing the band’s craft to a source where entrancement, above all else, reigns supreme, ‘Coral Reef’ and ‘World Last’ are subtly evolving themes that meld skeletal beats with widescreen analog pulses.

Though much less lysergic and fervidly wide-eyed than Föllakzoid’s studio efforts, Special Cases feels just as athrill. While the scorched synth panoramas of ‘New Religion’ and closer ‘Voyage’ evoke early Flying Saucer Attack fed through peak-era Tangerine Dream, the techno fever of ‘Mind White’ bursts forth, an interstellar jaunt where oscillations and weaving guitar arps cast finespun spells. On the downside, given the ad hoc origins of the release, Special Cases doesn’t succeed in being filler-free. Where, say, Portishead have managed it, abrupt endings on the likes of opener ‘IIIIX’ feel heavy-handed at best. In a realm where a sense of constancy doubles up as sonic currency, sudden blips early on distract a little from the journey ahead.

As a whole, though, Special Cases spills over with low-key majesty and purpose. From the vantage point of the future where his band have cornered a niche within modern psychedelia, it evinces JPR as a rare shaman of kosmiche savvy. For some, it will feel like a mere curio; for others, its substance will shine through. The latter will surely outweigh the former, but if only as a lens through which to heed the much bigger picture, it helps to reveal the promise that Föllakzoid continue to go far and beyond to deliver.

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