It’s a record signed ‘Gene’, named for ‘The Machine’ - the self-built analogue drum machine that Sam Eastgate used to construct this record. And it’s a thrilling, if uneven, selection of sounds that spring from this petite Pandora’s Box.
Eastgate (known from 00s nu-rave’s Late of the Pier and Connor Moccasin collaboration Soft Hair) has always played on electro’s more experimental edges. But here, he’s stayed broadly true to the wonkiness that characterised his debut, ‘Inji’. Keyboard, guitar and live drums augment the electronics, while a co-production credit from Erol Alkan brings a delicious mid 00s energy to proceedings.
‘Beginning’ - all breathy vocals and French electro flecks - saunters in to set the tone, while the twangy little guitar motif on 'Peace Lily' echoes Daft Punk in both style and execution. Infectious lead single ‘What Moves’, borrows its Big White Suit groove from David Byrne, angular yet feline. There’s romance to be found too, artfully and earnestly expressed on Rubber Sky, as Eastgate vows “I’ll run backwards for you”.
Fuzzed out and fed back, ‘Open your Eyes’ delivers glimmers of lyrical dexterity through a veil of treated vocal: “We all look the same when daylight is going/ When shadow aglow, we can say without knowing”.
‘Monochrome’ is the densest material here, and the most adventurous exploration of the album’s avant-electronic possibilities. From the doom-gloom of echoey ambience, percussive layers are repeated till a beat of purest filth kicks through to crack the tension. Strange noises and textures stitched together to make a weird, unholy noise. It’s headphone music of the highest order, and enough to make your teeth shake.
Like the eponymous drum machine that took six months to solder, 'Gene' is a creation of care and rhythmic complexity. At times, it feels like a test drive, pushing the boundaries to prove to itself what can be done. But when he concentrates his focus and narrows his noodling, it delivers substance and heft.
Words: Marianne Gallagher
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