A phantasmagorical trip from Bristol producers October and Borai.
Spiritflesh is the latest collaboration from Bristol-based artists Julian Smith and Boris English, better known, respectively, as October and Borai. In addition to their accomplished solo endeavours, they've long worked together on dance floor productions, but this marks their first move into more atmospheric, cinematic territory. While their brand of house and techno has always nodded to Bristol's soundsystem culture, here the slow-marching dread of bassweight pressure collides with the cloying grit of distortion, lurid effects processing and heavy synths. There's no explicit theme to the record, but it comes on like a sonic depiction of the mystery, beauty and panic of an ill-fated expedition in an imagined tropics.
The violence of "Crib" gives way to the stirring tribal patter of "Ever Impending Doom," where snagging percussion is punctuated with squelchy acid zaps and pealing leads, before melting into the motorik thrum, wild flanging and industrial clank of "Sentient." It's the considered dynamics of the mix that gives the music such presence—the cavernous tom blasts in "Sentient" punch out the low end only when it's absolutely necessary for dramatic impact. The patience with which these sonic accents are deployed creates a constant tension that is central to the experience of the album.
"Beneath The Clouded Veil" acts as a kind of centrepiece to the record—an 11-minute meditation of grungy bass and bittersweet pad sweeps over a chugging 4/4 chassis. It could have appeared on the Menace EP that preceded the album, where the punchier "Mortuary" and "Pimp Femme" threw light on other worlds Spiritflesh might infest. Ultimately though, the dubbed-out fog hovering over "Beneath The Clouded Veil" beds it perfectly in the midst of this journey, like a liberal dose of dry ice exaggerating the creeping early morning fog over a rainforest waterway in a grainy B-movie.
It's possible Spiritflesh is a direct reference to the 1988 Nocturnal Emissions album by that name—a chilling piece of dark ambient with similarly vivid atmospheres. A shared spirit of midnight malaise that transcends the 30-year gap between these releases. The dense album closer "Nothing Will Be The Same Again" speaks the most to this theory. Behind layers of exotic birdsong and obtrusively effected speech, the tender refrain of the synth aches with the fatigued calm of finally submitting to the inevitable.
Throughout the album, opaque uses of electronics pierce what feels like an organic sound bed, but really the whole project is an electronic construct. Smith and English's skill is in making you believe in the living, breathing qualities of their creation while you're lost in its dark and disorientating fantasy.