The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Core Echo Jon Buckland , November 22nd, 2023 08:30

Norwegian producer Mathias Humlen feels caught between scuzzy bangers and more exploratory noisescapes, finds Jon Buckland

Fakethias, the pseudonym of Norwegian producer Mathias Humlen, has been making waves since his noisy, beat-driven EP Attune landed in 2018. With pumping drums and relentless kicks, his brand of billowing distortion has always been club-adjacent but this year’s Excess EP, with the addition of his own sung vocals, marked a tonal shift into more overtly dance floor-friendly realms. Core Echo continues further down that garden path.

Excess was released on Cease To Exist, the label run by fellow Scandinavian (and previous Yung Lean collaborator) Varg2™, which gives a little glimpse of the route that Humlen has taken. Second track ‘Skin’ and its emotionally wrought vocals à la Cremation Lily or Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, combines the energetic nihilism of cloud rap with noise-cuffed emo. ‘Carousel’s woozy lyrical confession of “I’m so high I lost track of time”, even when situated next to faltering sound swipes akin to expiring batteries, does little to dispel those comparisons.

Then there’s ‘Shell’s catchy refrain of “If I crash, crash down into the concrete” appears over propulsive, borderline 2step drums, shunting it forward like the soundtrack to a coin-gobbling Sega Rally session at a fading amusement arcade. Or the electro-acoustic blizzard balladry of ‘Navel’. All of which finds Humlen expressing himself in less abstract, more conventional ways than before.

You get the impression that he might have tired of playing to the more arty scenes, and wants to branch out into broader rave spaces. But there’s a second side to this record where he just can’t pull himself entirely away from those alluring, textural swells of distortion and experimentation.

‘Euphoria Loop’, for example, is formed of the delirious, soaring guitar noise that you’d expect to find emitted from Kevin Shields’ cranked and towering amp stacks. Despite the abrasion, it’s suitably euphoric. Opener ‘Leap of Faith’ is a sing-song of wrestled feedback and inviting ambient clouds that mushroom in and out. There are squelches, stuttered sound, sampled voices – all discombobulating, all affecting. The title track itself is shrieked noise that dithers with lanced uncertainty. The muscular rumble beneath it providing the power whilst a fleet of rampaging space freighters scramble past at warp ten.

It might be Humlen’s debut album but it feels as if we’re encountering him at a crossroads. He’s simultaneously eager to push forward into this seductive new chapter of more structured, hook-fuelled bangers but unwilling to completely leave behind the wilder, more caustic, and more exploratory noise pieces that he first rose to prominence with.

Whilst this record is diligently and effectively constructed with plenty to keep fans happy on both side of the divide, it’s where Humlen goes next that most intrigues because, as it stands, his legs are akimbo, with feet in two disparate camps, unable to reconcile their differences. If it continues like this there’s a danger he’ll end up like the Echo of Greek mythology, condemned to merely repeating the past.