Review: Pariah -
Here From Where We Are
by Christian Jones
Pariah’s first offering in six years is a wonderfully unhurried statement of electronic music beyond the club, with its creator emerging in a new and altogether ambient direction after years of silence. ‘Here From Where We Are’, released earlier this year on Fabric’s Houndstooth imprint, is a calming and introspective moment for its creator Arthur Cayzer who on his emergence on the scene over half a decade (!!) ago was heralded as part of a burgeoning post-dubstep movement alongside auteurs such as James Blake and Joy Orbison. That’s not to say that this album is an anomaly when compared with his earlier work though, and Cayzer’s aptitude for fashioning tightly controlled moments of atmosphere amongst skittering drums is allowed to breathe on these longer cuts. He even went beatless on the title track of his 2010 EP, Safehouses.
The album is a steady flow of feelings and soundscapes, allowing the listener to recline into the lush sound design and cyclical melodies that ebb and flow like the tides. In a recent interview with the Truants blog, Cayzer iterated that “I’m a huge fan of albums that work as a single piece, take you into a world for 45 minutes to an hour, however long, you can get locked in…” and on this level the album succeeds. At times its flow can falter, and on second-from-close Drug The Lake his constant use of simple, cyclical melodies does start to drag, but the album is still adept at transporting the listener elsewhere. Its cinematic scope is evocative of Blade Runner, not just in its sweeping pads and melancholy undercurrents, but also in its exploration of the liminality between synthetic and organic sound. The opener Log Jam hums with energy, pulsing back and forth as a synth rises like a siren before enveloping a much more metallic sound. It is restrained yet feels like an alternate scoring of the opening shot, vast cityscape unfurled below.
The follow up, Pith, was by Cayzers own admission written as the second half of the opener, and in doing so provides balance to the strong, dark tones initially laid out. The pads here reside calmly, wavering and yet only shifting by matters of degrees. The tone is mellow, yet somehow the fade-out feels cinematic too. Seed Bank is aptly organic, with water dripping and running across the arrangement as though after an April shower. Chirps and rustles are evocative of wildlife, but within this landscape a digital, arpeggiated tone starts to rise, posing the question of what else in the track is synthesised. Are the water sounds manipulated Beyonce vocals or sampled from source? Does it matter? Have I listened to this track too many times? Similar questions are asked by Conifer, which starts with a bolder series of chords above less pronounced textural additions which evoke a similar sentiment. The constantly swelling chord progressions add a profound sense of light to the arrangement. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.
Linnaea acts as the centrepiece to the album, its carefully bouncing arpeggios once more cycling onwards and upwards. Its major key and chord intervals give the song an air of discovery, melodies dripping, bubbling and flittering like rays of light through an underwater reef. Its slow, methodical nature gives pause to the listener, something utilised to great effect by Ben UFO when played in his closing set at this years’ Houghton festival. Whilst not composed for a dancefloor, the track’s grand overtones and crystalline motifs felt at home gliding above the forest packed full of ravers, beams of light, and untold watts of high fidelity audio equipment.
Yet as often happens with cyclical, slowly modulating ideas if not very carefully managed, the album begin to drag it its latter stages. At The Edge has a familiar reverb-laden haze lying atop its pads, and like the later Rain Soup it devolves into some of the most textural moments on the album. Both feature rain dripping from gutters as layers of metallic reverb descend, forcing them into submission. Particularly in Rain Soup is the listener simply left with a soundscape, some windchimes occasionally present amid the empty space. Drug The Lake feels misplaced in this instance, and instead of providing a natural summation as the album recedes, it offers instead that same surging life as earlier. This time though, it does feel like a path well-trodden and is particularly incongruous given the atmosphere that the preceding tracks had built upon.
The final, titular track does its namesake justice in providing a summation of the album as a whole. Stuttering, life-affirming chords reminiscent almost of Porter Robinson give way to a gentle washing away of melodic components, like the sea erasing drawings in the sand. We’re left with noise, some bubbling water, and then silence. Cayzer has said that this is “the closest thing to, in my view, to a song on the record”, and this is apt in that only in the title track are the full range of emotions and soundscapes combined to form a singular coherent ‘song’. Here From Where We Are is therefore best approached almost as a stream of consciousness, a number of individual snapshots that work on their own yet move as one carrying the listener onwards into their depths. It is lush and full of life, but unfortunately stumbles in maintaining such character over an extended number of tracks.
Apply directly to ears. For best results look out of a window of a moving vehicle whilst doing so.
Favourite tracks: Linnaea, Conifer, Here From Where We Are
Words by Christian Jones