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Intimate Publics Will Ainsley , June 13th, 2022 07:57

Osheyack’s second album boasts a haptic intensity courtesy of bristling synthetic soundscapes and flinty electronics. Will Ainsley locks in

There’s an enjoyably brisk, hard-as-nails, no-nonsense quality to Osheyack’s second album, Intimate Publics. Maybe it’s the twenty-five minute run time, or those stentorian sub basses, or the rough-hewn sonics that marble each tune like quartz in granite, but the album comes in such a huge rush that it feels as if you’re almost dragged under, like there’s nothing to do but submit. 

The Shanghai-based producer and musician found this album’s namesake in Lauren Berlant’s concept of an “intimate public” – that which is “constituted by strangers who consume common texts and things”. You could apply this term to the way the album consumes “common texts” of electronic music – techno’s kick drums, dubstep’s spaciousness, grime’s intensity, IDM’s intricacy -– and spits out something that squats in-between the genres. 

Such is the tension that the eight tunes throb and tremble like overloaded white goods. Right from the start of the album, the martial, malevolent ‘Edging’ has Venetian Snares-y metallic trills that seem to rattle their cages, a squeaky vocal line processed into puny rage, and a juddering, 3D bass quake that’s just there. Likewise, the strange (and wonderful) staccato flow in ‘Thrall’ seems boxed in by the nervy, syncopated kick and hi-hat combo and airless vocal treatments. Indeed, among all the churn and burn, some moments of beauty can happen almost accidentally; you admire the mechanical seethe in the way you admire the brushed chrome of a brand-new skyscraper.

But what exactly is creating these witching hour electronics, and what are the disembodied voices saying? Intimate Publics also revels in this thrill of the unknown, such as the yowls in ‘Usually Never’ (courtesy of an angry cat? A shorting strimmer? A broken bandsaw?). With the panic-inducing white noise backdrop of ‘Being Online’ and creepy door squeaks in ‘Piecemeal’, there’s something almost Gothic about the eldritch mystery of this album – Castle of O-trance-to… anyone? 

Words (some sung, some spoken) are cut up, smeared, and smashed on ‘Thrall’, ‘Still’ and ‘Piecemeal’ to the point of sounding twisted, granulated, and strange. It’s as if the digital treatment is literally affecting the meaning, accidentally arriving at a language that sits somewhere between Simlish and Black Lodge backwards-talk. These processed gasps, fractured whispers, and collaged vocal ephemera come across like tuts and breaths become strange, knobbly protuberances, like coagulated oil paint applied too thick on canvas. The result is dream-like and beautiful. 

All in all, Osheyack keeps a pretty steady hand on the tiller throughout, never quite letting the music wander into fragility. These tunes are solid, unyielding. Though, by dint of this discipline, the album never really blooms into anything more defined or unguarded. There are few real moments, just a succession of jagged edges and glinting mirages girded by their own steely cage.