MA, Smagghe and Cross's first batch of original material, uncouples the duo from the dance floor. (Since 2013, they've made synth-led disco remixes for The Asphodells, Alain Chamfort and Daniele Baldelli, among others.) Only the bassy pulse of "Warren," whose synth notes unfurl like crepe streamers, signals Smagghe's renown as a DJ and producer. Otherwise, MA is given to long tonal stretches with a regal hue. It's on tracks like "My Heart The Beat Skipped," whose disjunctive sounds recall musique concrète, and the solemn strings of "Ostende Pt. 2" where the feeling of submersion is strongest.
Sometimes, as on the Virginia Astley-inspired piano and birdsong of "Onde De Choc," MA brings you to the surface gently. "Cock Of The North," on the other hand, snatches you out of the water. A spoken word track with gongs and percussion, it sets a squalid scene—after a wake, where "everyone's stinking from daytime drinking," a consolatory session descends into violence and drug abuse. Adelle Stripe, whose 2012 poem "Big Weekend" is the track's source material, reads in the impassive yet weary tone of someone now numb to such extremes. Of MA's various inner worlds, "Cock Of The North"'s is the only one we can access with ease.
Smagghe, in the same interview with RBMA, said the album was about he and Cross meeting. It's also, perhaps, about wandering, and getting lost in the process. On the lengthy ambient drifts of "Ostende Pt. 2," "Slowdiving" and "See Saw Seen," a sense of disorientation begins to enfold. MA's formless passages, particularly in the album's second half, can seem as featureless as a landless horizon. When the more familiar contours of "Warren" or "Cock Of The North" appear—as craggy coastal rocks in the distance do, perhaps—the album's edges seem graspable. They are, as Weatherall writes, "brief flashes of gold [that] disturb the murky slit of memory." The private histories that inspired MA, on the other hand, hide in plain sight.