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Memnon Sa
Offworld Radiation Therapy Johny Lamb , March 14th, 2023 09:58

With keening sax and big sci-fi synths – but recorded so carefully – Johny Lamb finds much to enjoy

Offworld Radiation Therapy is the new release from Misha Hering under his Memnon Sa moniker. This is the fourth release in this name released by the head engineer at the superb Holy Mountain studio, a place that specialises in warmth, valves, vintage gear and a fine line in classic analogue synthesis. Their client list reflects the attitude here, and the music on offer on this collection of tracks evidences both the incredible skill and the attitude that Hering has toward his craft.

For me, this is quite a curious experience as the release takes a number of things that I characteristically dislike, and does them ludicrously well. I find myself enjoying pitch bends, keening sax, big chordal sci fi synth. Hering is a creator at the zenith of his creative powers and at the peak of skilful execution.

I don’t like the idea of ‘timeless’ music, but there’s something about this that almost lacks any truly tangible era. There is prog, there is krautrock, there are slivers of jazz, and industrial music wrapped in a blanket of gothic psychedelia articulated within a vintage that might come from anywhere in the last fifty years were it not for the astonishing clarity of it all. It’s this that finally gives the whole thing an utterly contemporary feel. Quite a feat.

‘Gaia Pharmacology’ kicks things off with a sense of cinematic dystopia – unsurprising for a pandemic-made record. But there is a harmonic sensibility, a pulsing sensation of well-placed dissonance, constantly undermining and destabilizing what might have felt like retroism. It is dense, textured and clever, and the congruence of this sound world continues throughout the four tracks here. The reverberant stuttering of the last third of ‘Ennoculation Wand’ is anxiety itself sounded as though voicing the angst of Jim Thirlwell though the warmest tubes possible before the track closes with some weirdly panned heavy breathing.

The third track ‘Possible Cryogenic Futures’ pushes at the limits of equal temperament as pitch is worried and stretched beyond familiar intervals. With crystalline arpeggios working around gnarly bass drones and gestural drums clattering away, it’s like the best ever John Carpenter score. In other hands this might have felt bloated and old-fashioned, but the compositional smarts and the sheer quality of production allow for a whole weird world of excess to unfold around us.

I think it’s the production that impresses the most here. Rarely have I heard better drum recordings. Each cymbal emerges from the bedrock of noise with absolute purity. We hear every tiny moment of their sounding. Every thud of kick drum is precise and complex. It’s a masterclass in mic placement and processing. I think I could happily listen to just the drums alone for hours. Even with the big reverbs and the density of what surrounds them, they stand out. Glorious. The entry of the drums in closing track ‘Boreal Immunity Response’ is a great example of how great a job has been done with the recording (by Stanley Gravett – credited with the recording of the drums – as well as Hering).

I think this release is well worth checking out, even if it’s not your normal kind of thing. There is something so confident, so accomplished and powerful on offer here that it offer more than stylistic amusement. Rather we are given an insight into the flexing creative muscles of a deeply skilled individual at play. So much to marvel at, and so much to enjoy.