Raime and Blackest Ever Black: two names that have been inextricably linked since they made their debut together in 2010. Across the Raime EP and a further two for Kiran Sande's label, the duo of Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead have carved out a singular sound, drawing on the desiccated sonics of '70s and '80s goth and industrial, jungle's pulpy dystopianism, and claustrophobic bass weight tapped from either dubstep or doom metal—depending on who you ask. It's a finely poised hybrid that, in its apocalyptic sincerity, its brooding stylishness and effortless originality, seems the perfect articulation of the BEB ethos.
It's fitting, then, that the duo's debut LP is also the first original album-length release for Blackest Ever Black—a landmark moment for both parties. Part of Raime's power undoubtedly lies in their reticence, and it's significant that the seven tracks on Quarter Turns Over a Living Line serve to more than double their total output. In tackling the album format, there was always a slight risk that the duo would overreach, losing some of their potency in the process. Fortunately they've done nothing of the sort, crafting a 40-minute statement of intent that remains focussed without becoming monochrome, and injects fresh blood into the Raime formula without sacrificing its considerable early promise.
Quarter Turns Over a Living Line is a marked departure from those formative EPs in a couple of respects. For one thing, the electronic sound palette of past releases has been augmented with a range of live instrumentation; the resultant mixture of the acoustic and the synthetic, sutured together with bursts of distortion, gives the duo's sound a newfound richness. At points—as with the plangent string tones that bookend the album, lending an oaky shimmer to "Passed Over Trail" and "The Dimming of Road and Rights"—this imbues proceedings with a baroque sense of dread not dissimilar from The Haxan Cloak, although far less (i.e. not at all) inclined to tip over into quaint archaisms. Elsewhere, guitar predominates—sometimes, as you might expect, functioning as the harbinger of doom, but not always: scratchy, distant loops form the backbone to "Your Cast Will Tire," for example, a numbing dirge that hints at Americana's panoramic vistas.
Another marked change is in pace. Sure, the nimble pitter-patter of programmed drums that gave past Raime productions something of the weightlessness of jungle does make appearances—in the pulse-quickening "Exist in the Repeat of Practice," for example. But more often than not it's subdued or entirely absent, replaced with expanses of yawning, abysmal space, dread-pregnant stases that pack half the sonic content but double the emotional clout. As a strategy it suggests newfound confidence and willingness to do more with less.
But in spite of the differences, this record is more a case of continuity than of rupture. One of the album's finest moments, "The Last Foundry," draws on material from "This Foundry," taken from the Raime EP—a neatly cyclical gesture. The original is among the duo's prettiest, most melancholic moments, and this new version is similarly aching, its thick double bass notes implying a mournful harmonic progression under daubs of distortion and occasional wails of guitar. It's undeniably still Raime, but—much like this album as a whole—it's a more expansive, more ambitious and more accomplished Raime than we've heard before.