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Proc Fiskal
Siren Spine Sysex Johny Lamb , October 1st, 2021 09:00

New on Hyperdub, Proc Fiskal conjures a new populist folk heritage out of grime and Gaelic folk

Writing about this new Hyperdub release has taken longer than I thought. Not because it is hard to find things to say, but because it opens in me so many thoughts and avenues that it is tough to keep myself on topic with words that might be of use to the reader. As tricky as that is, it speaks to the potential power of the release and the time that it arrives in. Proc Fiskal (AKA Joe Power) is a Scottish producer with a distinct folk music lineage, and his deliberate reframing of dance music as folk is a rewarding project that taps into several contemporary tensions and ideological structures as it goes.

At surface level, we are presented with imaginative and highly mobile electronic music that might have been labelled as IDM not so long ago. It carries some of the same glitching and fragmentary beats and fleeting melodies that we might find in something like Bogdan Raczynski’s superb Samurai Math Beats. As with Raczynski’s output there is a barely contained instability in this work, where pitch, rhythm, and structure all wobble in and out of graspable solidity. Consider how the moments of human voice and oscillator interact and find just enough congruence to continue in ‘Recall [Throate Achres]’. This is laboured and detailed work indeed. So much so that even passages of repetition are quite difficult to pinpoint.

One of the things I’m finding interesting here is the named and wonderful relationship between this music and Cocteau Twins. This is not just in the parallels we might draw to Liz Fraser, but also in the riffs (if we might call them that) and implied chord progressions. This is stylistically a long way away, but the similarities are writ large and work beautifully. To get a sense of this look toward ‘8 Mgapixel See Thru Phone’ or ‘Leith Tornn Carnal’ both of which carry something of the majesty of tracks like ‘Sugar Hiccup’. It really is a recipe that impacts with real potency.

But production skill and smart genre collisions aside, there is something that runs through this record that gives it a currency worthy of your time, and that is language – or rather, languages. Just now, we find the Union at a low ebb, and nationhood, colonialism, identity, and sectarianism are all conversations of urgency in the post-Brexit pool of political frictions. We find in Proc Fiskal a prescient reminder that language, particularly within the context of the amorphous cannon of folk music, moves well beyond English as a dominant ‘voice’. Indeed, in many places we are seeing renewed interest in preservation of P and Q celt languages, strong political defence of Scots and Doric too. This extends beyond native speakers to more touristic fragments of diaspora (like me). Consider Gwenno’s Cornish language songs, or Miss PunnyPennie’s Twitter feed, or the Shetland word of the day TikTok account. We are engaged in a populist revival of heritage which is neatly at odds with Brexit’s crusade of ‘sovereignty’. Proc Fiskal has built this work around fragments of song and spoken language that at once embed the output within folk music’s rubric while establishing a source of trans-British and Irish cultures rarely found in dance music.

Ultimately what Joe Power seems to know and is urging us to explore is the potential for dance music to be not just a place of music and audio innovation, but also a site of discourse and resistance. To consider that aesthetics are inherently political, and to borrow Christopher Small’s notion that all musical performances find their efficacy or not in their ability to articulate the values or principles of a particular social group, is to find a useful way into this album. The fourteen tracks are interesting and beautiful enough, as they mess with space, provide rich 808 kicks, and transcendent distortions (‘Roman Fatigue’ is a glorious example of fuzzed brilliance), but they also provide a rich vein of thinking about language, history, power, geography, and identity politics. There is so much to explore here, and so much to consider after the fact. This is a great record that I may never fully reconcile, its tensions and spidering principles being so complex and densely knotted. It is a truly magical place to spend time in headphones. Allow this one to cover you like a dewed web of rich imagination. You surely won’t regret it.