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Album Of The Week

Contact Buzz: Full-On By Klara Lewis & Nik Colk Void
Jon Buckland , June 29th, 2023 06:01

Loops and drones leave you reeling in a suite of tracks whose brevity is no barrier to their psychedelic effects, finds Jon Buckland

At a friend’s 21st birthday, back in the giddy year of 2006, I made an ill-advised narcotic miscalculation. Already pumped up on a brazen cocktail of MDMA, fairly rubbish cocaine, and my own foolish bravado, I gamely hocked down three small tablets of ‘herbal highs’ misrepresented to me by the birthday boy's sociopathic flatmate (whose increasingly erratic behaviour would eventually lead to his attempted sectioning).

It turned out that the trio of pills I’d ingested weren’t so much innocuous legal highs as Benzedrine, an archaic form of amphetamines favoured by the Beats and Mods due to its all-night stamina extension. What followed were thirty-six long hours of delirium and hallucinations. The height of which hit fairly early on with a sustained period of around five hours during which I became completely incapable of grasping and retaining a thought for longer than three seconds. Total goldfish memory. Four words into a conversation, I’d lose all notion of what I was saying or what was being said to me.

My fellow revellers, having had the good sense to avoid the aforementioned flatmate’s handouts, were faring far better. So they decided to spend sixty seconds focusing all of their attentions on me as I fluttered from dismay and anger at their united gaze to bewilderment and confusion when, half a moment later, I could no longer fathom why they were all staring at me.

Through a series of wonked-out loops, blustery drones, and crumbling noise, Klara Lewis & Nik Colk Void’s collaborative album Full-On drops me right back into that headspace. Be it the incessant, inescapable ‘Green’, with its continual (and potentially misheard) phrase “Shell dreams of fire”, or the dance floor calamity that is ‘Junk Funk’ whose rag-tag rhythms go off like a party aboard one of those boats that haul steaming piles of trash down river. Or even ‘Ski’, which appears to enlist Omar Souleyman to re-score the scene in Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure where a dozen men, stripped to the waist, douse themselves in beer and bellow at one another over the goading din of the nightclub sound system. All of these burrow into a rich opiate seam rarely seen since Balance and Christopherson shuffled off this mortal coil.

A passing knowledge of Lewis and Colk Void’s previous antics can’t hurt expectations. The latter’s rap sheet includes Factory Floor, collaborations with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, and last year’s excellent Brood X Cycles release with Alexander Tucker. And there’s also her solo album, Bucked Up Space, launched in the same year through the late, great Peter Rehberg’s Editions Mego label (which happens to be home to the album Ingrid and a whole host of other equally emotive, drone-centric records that Klara Lewis has spent the best part of a decade gifting to the world.

Both are renowned artists in their own right but this collaboration feels like the crystallised culmination of all that they’ve been separately building towards. Over the course of these seventeen short-lived tracks, Lewis and Void ping-pong sounds back and forth between them, manipulating the layers until they’re almost unrecognisable. Garbled voices vie for attention, uttering such uncertainties as “I don’t know” and “Worth it at all?”. There are clumpy, mechanical loops, as on ‘Swimming’, a track which sounds akin to a neighbour’s sobbing washing machine. And, whilst the same charge could be levelled at the misleadingly-titled ‘Pop’, the mournful melodies surfacing astride those lolloping beats elevate it to borderline banger status – albeit the sort of banger that accompanies creeping 6am, clenched-jaw paranoia.

The back half of the album veers into gentler territory, invoking the spectral sounds of William Basinski. ‘Found’, at a leisurely three minutes thirty-four seconds, is both the longest track on the record and a quiet, contemplative turn consisting of gently manipulated struck metal. Similarly, the rising perambulation of harmonic swells on ‘Teeth’ unfurl like a butterfly emerging from a dew-drenched chrysalis and ‘To Hold’ offers a soft cascade of sound in the vein of Angelo Badalamenti, standing in stark contrast to the earlier, aggressive pulsing.

Fortunately that experience, back in ’06, did offer a little more than just confused panic. Around seven hours in, I encountered a series of shared hallucinations with a pal who had unwisely joined me down the bennies rabbit hole. A configuration of lights in a window reflection were, as far as we were concerned, a rotating carousel. A good ten minutes or more were spent peering at a tiny hole that we both swore blind was a spider crawling up and down the wall, and, many hours after that, we observed vehicle headlights exploding like fireworks in the wing mirror of a car.

Much like those brief but gratifying visions, Full-On’s tranquil second third doesn’t last forever. We soon find ourselves disappearing down ill-lit basement stairs into a dark, pulsating expanse. A fertile space where minds can wander, tricking even the bravest and most lucid of souls. This plays out in the fearless descent of ‘Amo’ with a siren-like voice blaring the title over and over until it crash-lands into ‘Work It Out’, a violent, throbbing wreckage which twists and snarls like a drowning tiger. The finale of ‘I’ll Always’ takes a different tack, a sort of a cappella denouement with pitched voices phasing in and out of digitised, harmonic resonance. The lyrics rarely decipherable, it’s a chant that seems to promise human emotion via a computer processor, like some AI siren luring naive sonic sailors onto rocky shores.

The fearless experimentation and freedom gained by working with a trusting collaborator has allowed the floodgates to open on Lewis and Void’s deep, combined pool of creativity. Diving into Benzedrine-backwashed states of mind might not be for everyone. But, with the thought-sluicing effects relatively diluted, these short, spiralling sounds are particularly pleasing, engrossing, oddly rewarding, and thoroughly brilliant. More disquieting Coil-esque drug trauma explorations please.