Though they've been making music since before they even set foot in a club, the music of young Scottish duo Clouds doesn't feel like it's been bred from sounds two kids stumbled across on Youtube. Rather, it sounds like something you'd find on a distorted cassette passed around between battle-hardened ravers over the years. Calum MacLeod and Liam Robertson's early singles, like 2010's Liquid or "Gang 49," their contribution to Turbo Recordings' New Jack Techno compilation, weren't flushed with the adolescent thrill of having just discovered dance music. Instead, they sounded like they'd spent their whole lives interred in a squat party soundtracked by industrial techno. They almost seemed to embody any parent's worst nightmare about the diabolical dance music corrupting their youth. Indeed, their debut album, Ghost Systems Rave, is as sullen and shadowy as a teenager's face peering out of a hoody.
MacLeod and Robertson's penchant for early '90s IDM is clear from Autecheresque track titles like "GX 339-4 V821 Ara (About 15000)." "Modular Scarf" has both the bounce and bleeps of the classic Sheffield Warp sound, and the splenetic electro at the end of "Topless Female Nudity" has certain shades of Aphex Twin. With their huge stabs, rolling breaks and screeching alarms, "Future 1" and "Future 2" are textbook hardcore, conjuring up imagined flashbacks of a rave in an abandoned abattoir. The drugged-out and indecipherable voices that recur throughout on tracks like "The Rights Of Artificial Life Form" and "Skeleton Island" are as dark and indistinct as a Rorschach blot, though they'd likely bring violent imagery to the mind of even the most serene Buddhist, particularly on "Gothic," where the beat has a sickening squelch like a hammer smacking into soft flesh. In many ways Ghost Systems Rave is as bumpy and nerve-jangling as a joyride in a stolen Ford Fiesta. Whether that's your idea of fun or not, no one could ever claim it's clean and healthy.