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Album Of The Week

Clean On Your Bean: Man With The Magic Soap By Persher
Noel Gardner , October 20th, 2022 08:05

The duo of Jamie Roberts (Blawan) and Arthur Cayzer (Pariah) leave behind the acid froth for some maggoty post-genre techsludge

Persher by Perry Gibson

The debut release by Persher comprises seven tracks lasting 26 minutes, and no-one involved in its release seems especially fussed about whether this makes it an album or an EP. This is refreshing in general, in an anti-taxonomical way, and also speaks to the hardcore punk and extreme metal that the two producers behind it brought to bear on its electronic foundations. (Most great hardcore albums are less than half an hour long; metal is a bit windier on average, of course, but there’ll always be the 29-minute Reign In Blood.)

Man With The Magic Soap is an oblique, even difficult record – certainly in the context of those two producers and their core audience, and also the sort of music they’re plundering here, and the traditional audience for that. Jamie Roberts, who has used a few production names but is best known as Blawan, and Arthur Cayzer, who goes by Pariah for his solo releases, are both pretty widely respected in the UK club music milieu. Despite this, or because of it, each has sometimes given the impression of distrusting any populist tendencies that crop up in their own productions. Blawan’s early-2010s breakout track ‘Getting Me Down’ was an audacious marriage of 2-step and techno, a sound he promptly discarded. ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’, from 2012, was a one-off absurdity ripe to cross over to alt-rock listeners despite having no definable ‘rock’ ingredients. Early Pariah 12-inches were less brash, like the garagey ‘Detroit Falls’, but Cayzer has gone through lengthy periods of dissatisfaction with his productions: recent single ‘Caterpillar’ was only his second as Pariah in a decade.

Amidst all this, the duo’s productions and live hardware sets as Karenn have established them as European techno mainstays – not easy-option crowdpleaser stuff by any means, but replete with mighty raveable girder-whack rhythms and acid froth. Persher should by no means be viewed as Karenn under a new name. Here they are subjecting guitars and drums to heavy digital processing rather than occupying an electronics-but-analogue middle ground. That should not, however, be taken to mean a total absence of commonality with their other project in Man With…’s maggoty post-genre techsludge.

No real suggestion of a backstory for the ages with this one, but it seems that even before the Karenn project was minted, Blawan and Pariah were hipped to each other’s metal inclinations. Of the pair, Roberts seems to have spent a little more time in the trenches, including drumming in go-nowhere death metal bands as a Yorkshire teen. He supplies Persher’s vocals, which come in a few different styles – two on Man With The Magic Soap’s opening title track alone. More buoyant and danceable than much of what follows, Cayzer’s guitar parts have a cloudy whiff of Bleach-era Nirvana, albeit processed to heck, and the drums are marked by an endearingly imperfect thudding snare refrain. (Interesting to read that all the beats on here were done on machines; I’d have bet the farm on them being laid down live, if only at the outset.) As for the vox, Roberts’ schlocky industrial style is swapped out about 50 seconds from the end for a quick injection of diaphragmatic deathgurgle which I’d suggest is derived if not directly inspired by Obituary’s John Tardy.

Having opened with a few seconds of what sounds like a broken radio, ‘Calf’ plumps for the sort of industrialisms that won’t get you a DJ residency in any provincial goth nightclub. A flatlining metronome beat is wedded to massively bleached-out production and a vocal approach that echoes Atilla Csihar, sprinkled with what I suspect to be a little autotune. It sounds like a death-doom band playing at the other end of an extremely long underground tunnel, latterly embellished by the abstract techno synths that enter the fray.

Roberts’ voice isn’t always peggable to any obvious style: on ‘Ten Tiny Teeth’, punkishly short at 138 seconds long, he’s just metallically rabid and animalistic, and that’s fine. There’s wobbly bass and hoovers on one side of the equation, grind-adjacent kickdrums on the other: Petbrick, whose drummer Iggor Cavalera entered electronic music as an iconic metal musician (i.e., the inverse of Persher), are a touchstone for this strain of hi-tech splatter.

Insofar as these songs are pretty well unintelligible lyrically, my standout vocal moment might be on ‘Face To Face Cloth’, a wretched, enervating plod of endurance (in the best way) enlivened about two-thirds through by a spluttering cough somewhere between ‘Sweet Leaf’ and General Melchett. While Man With…’s sound is largely uncharted territory for both producers, certainly as regards what they’ve actually released, you only have to listen to the bass on this one to be reminded of their studio bona fides. Mulling the impact this’d have on a big system is perhaps the most persuasive reason to hurry a Persher live show along.

The obstreperous ‘Mother Hen’ fills this brief too: there’s ominous big-room dubstep synth sweeping and canyon-deep bass drops, but an aesthetic and framework that has as much to do with Kevin Martin’s 90s project God, Locust Abortion Technician-era Butthole Surfers and Shit And Shine (or the group that links both, USA/Mexico).

Most of the sound design on this release is so fritzed that trying to figure out what the root inspirations could be is a matter of part-sighted guesswork – which obviously pays Persher a big, if implicit, compliment. Reason enough not to get too bogged down in that, but suffice to say centrepiece cut ‘World Sandwiches 2’ invokes Wolf Eyes, Black Mecha, Uniform and Bristolian corpsepaint don Sophrosyne.

Closing Man With The Magic Soap, ‘Patch Of Wet Ground’ seems to gesture, structurally, towards classic doom metal, with Cayzer wrangling riffs that could totally pass for some Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus number if they weren’t comprehensively digitized, quantised and generally fucked with. Unusually, there’s a dance music-friendly melody peeking into the room here too – a shimmering bit of ambient synth that gets its proper due in the track’s coda and ends the album in a manner almost entirely alien to the 25 minutes that happened directly beforehand. Very much a break, too, from nearly anything to previously bear Roberts’ or Cayzer’s name, this really is a great record that’s genuinely on its own circuit. I catch myself worrying whether there’s actually an audience for it, like that’s my problem – as with the EP/album conundrum, those who’ve made this happen don’t appear concerned by that. If you’ve read as far as this final sentence, I submit that Persher’s audience is… you.