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Humanus Jeremy Allen , April 24th, 2023 08:03

The London duo choose to leave the rough edges on their unique interprettion of neo-Celtic cybernetic folk, finds Jeremy Allen

From Audiobooks to Yazoo, electronic pop duos work best when they unsettle in some way. Thankfully Dominic and Fionnuala Kennedy got the memo. Like the name they chose for themselves, they are hard to define, equivocal, open to interpretation. Uh, the diminutive word, only hints at a meaning and is more a reflex emission than a considered utterance, punctuating awkward silences or grunted in flagranti.

2019’s excellent extended debut E.P. Seasick In Salts introduced us to the inscrutable London Irish pair’s elongated, progressive electronica, variously described as neo-Celtic acid rave or cybernetic folk. Humanus – their debut album proper – continues to confound and astound where Seasick In Salts left off. Literally, as it happens º play one after the other and you’ll notice the drawn-out ambient refrain at the conclusion of ‘Firing Up’ seamlessly aligning with the opening note of ‘Prelude’, the track which sets out the duo’s wonky stall.

On ‘Prelude’ the listener immediately encounters an androgynous voice: “Why have you not written to me once more in this sickness?” enunciates what sounds like a cyborgian Jane Austen from the future, “You never write, you are supposed to be my lover my sister…” There’s yet more creepy monologue action at the onset of ‘Attention’, giving off the kind of vibrations you’ll get from obscure British sci-fi series from the late seventies and early eighties on Britbox. Then everything kicks in and ‘Attention’ soars to a transcendent place assisted by emphatic, raw percussion.

That too is the case for the title track, which rattles along with a touch of swagger, inviting the listener into a trance-like state as it clatters towards the event horizon. ‘Hit’, too, keeps things moving along nicely, but then something unexpected happens. Things start to feel a bit, well, ordinary. The wailed three-note configuration that is ‘Mama’ sounds like an electro-operatic Morrissey spoof. They return to the eccentric sci-fi spoken thread from earlier on ‘Early Learning’, but then too much after comes off as undercooked, sometimes redolent of anaemic rave tunes blaring from Fiat hatchbacks from the early 90s.

Uh were performing these songs live before the inevitable COVID downing of tools, and the pair opted not to tamper with them too much when they finally got into Prah’s Margate studio. Which does beg the question, “why not?” By all means keep it unvarnished if you’re a bandana thrash power trio from Portland, but for weird, proggy, neo-celtic acid ravers from Harlesden, embellishment is surely not a sin. Uh’s uncanniness clearly filters into mysterious decision making. They’re only Humanus after all.