An imperfect yet engrossing full-length from the noise techno artist.
It's this last quality that's most conspicuously absent from his latest full-length. Even during its most dynamic moments, like the burly "Slippers," LP is cold and weary, even withdrawn at times. Beats are stiff, leaden and unbalanced. Several tracks come to wheezing ends. A couple, including "Juicer," come to hasty stops, as if Schofield ripped them off life support. Take "Leaker." Like so much else on the record, it seems to pour the monotony of 21st-century anxiety and depression into four minutes of grinding bass, tinny static and frail whines. Yet even when Schofield attempts to kick into high gear (as on "Drain" and the cruelly syncopated "Retractor"), he winds up smothering grooves in gummy melodic tantrums or ramming through sluggish breaks and knocking the tracks back on their heels.
I suspect these qualities would be less jarring had Schofield retained the textural thickness and cohesive depth of previous releases, especially 2014's Adhesive EP. Instead, he's opted to cut a startling amount of meat from the bones. A track like the excessively lo-fi "Vacancy" isn't streamlined—it's gaunt, just synth, bass and skins protruding like bug eyes and rib cages. Ditto for "Chunked," on which similar elements lock into a dirge before collapsing into a gabber stutter, which then dissolves into a stammering shuffle that is flat and rickety. By rendering naked the corroded seams and shaky beat constructions, Schofield further unnerves listeners, making us feel wiry and exhausted simultaneously, kind of like that vibrating numbness that arrives after hours of too much social media, too much scrolling, too much clicking, too much distraction.
But this stripping away of the flesh also carries risks. "Jail" and "Peppered" both lock onto the kind of brutish throb heard on Vegetation (the ace jam "Radiator" in particular), yet they simply don't contain enough rich, blurring effects to send our brains into outer orbit. Of course, denying listeners that spacey, intoxicated feeling fits Schofield's M.O. this time around. It's just that these two pieces also don't fully embrace the strange, downer vibe permeating the rest of the album.
Rendering a verdict on LP is tough, and that's a good thing. Is it as consistently energizing as previous Container albucutsms? No. There are a couple of misfires, and the track sequencing drags in spots. The run of "Peppered," "Juicer" and "Slippers" contains too much middle-gear chug. On the other hand, these issues must be weighed against the intentional challenge that LP presents. Schofield often sounds downright uneasy, as if he's looking to cut the legs out from under his trademark style. When an artist slips into this mode, they rarely make perfect statements. What usually emerges instead are uneven collections full of experimental escape hatches that are engrossing for their very imperfections.
But even if that's not what's going on here, the music—nervous, listless, unpleasant, even mangled—arrives at a time when life itself is drowning in those very qualities. Some days, we're freaking out from the idea that Western society is a train barreling towards a wreck. Other days it seems as if we're living the same day over and over, coerced into a kind of shoulder-shrugging submission. It's between these two polls that LP has set up camp.