0.02 ALBUM REVIEW

0.02 Score

There are two things I absolutely hate to write about: the internet, and the noncommittal term “experimental” music. These two concepts have lost their nebulous and explorative connotations; the majority of people have an apt understanding of how to navigate the internet, and experimental music is no longer reserved to die-hards who sift through the shelves of record stores. Within the past decade, anyone with a cursory idea of how to download music can find a link to a file sharing website, find recommendations, and immediately obtain entire discographies within minutes. Additionally, becoming a fan of an artist or their work is as easy as reading a review or looking at the aggregate score on rateyourmusic.com. These archives, however, offer something completely unique to the musicians of this millennia, as their work can occupy revered spaces on a global scale without the interview/review/festival packages that so many artists still cling to in order to stay relevant. And with Albur!’s third album within a year, this volatile relationship between music and accessibility to an audience is fractured into a beautifully dense diagrammatic mural.

While yes, Albur! noticeably occupy the “experimental” realm in a superficial level, applying a variety of distorted ideals to post-rock, free improvisational, musical concréte, ambient, drone, glitch, noise, and any other key word that will help their bandcamp page become searchable, the compositions opt for a more indefinable approach. Off-putting and contradictory, the moments on 0.02 that shine are only illuminated by the cyclical serenities. The other noticeable outlier when listening would be the presentation. At first glance, it would seem there may be an error with the files you accessed. The album cover is a series of flowcharts splitting and crossing in sporadic ways. Even the language used is completely intelligible, utilizing scientific symbols and abbreviations that lack coherent paths. The only thing to be gathered is the title, artist, and duration. Even the songs are represented in a code, functioning as digitized files for a wholly interconnected experience. The attempt at disconnect is clear, offering nothing to the listener, opposing any sort of middle ground. Further research shows that the band is from Spain with a single member, Enemy Wartez, who acts as a member for many similar Spanish groups. And that’s it. No interviews, no biographies, and only one photo on the cover of their first album She Used to Feed Me to peek into the world of Albur!. The walls put up in order to veil any intentions work; the further I look into the void, the more distorted and immobilized I become. Without the free download option on the Hasty Waifu Bandcamp page, this album and artist would have been lost until found like an artifact years later and given a repressing.

But there lies the magnificence in 0.02. Once submerged within the realm of Albur!, the world expands without sacrificing the simplistic nature of the record. Essential to the four songs on this fifty-five minute creation are three elements: improvised guitars, atmospheric drones, and isolated samples. At its core, 0.02 creates a home base where it retreats to after moments of obfuscation, shrouding itself in a fog. The introduction to the album establishes this motif, wherein ambience is traded via static charges with guitar chords calm plucked. The barrenness is slowly lost though, as compositions drift from channel to channel with melodic motifs interconnecting. As pressure builds, the ominous nature reaches an apex, and inorganically expires. “20.59” features constantly tripping, channel swapping strings that face their first form of distortion: as samples are sliced and syphoned with a self-editing ear, they are rewound to the point of unfurling sanity. The strings morph into harsh harpsichord-esque demons that are quickly masked by the return to normalcy. Stringed improvisation continues as if nothing occurred, but the samples flip through pages and the windy atmosphere feels distinctly foreboding. The synthetic stratosphere is time lapsed forward again into a central base location, where the alien strumming finds holes within the dense shroud to sliver into, and fully reverberate. 0.02 shines when the songs displace natural moments of sonic beauty with electronic awareness. Every movement made is seen through the eyes of Wartez, and this meta self-awareness instills these mind-bending aural journeys.

But just as it becomes easier to peel back the astounding amount of layers to each song, Wartez unplugs and careens into a lateral direction. As the intense moments subside, the backdrops and guitars can shift functions holistically without losing their presence. The eerie ambience whispers with a mechanical viscosity in how it alters itself with varying thickness and distortion. The reverb on the guitars feel like the eyes of hurricanes, witnesses to naturalistic moments of power that are at the whim of the surroundings, but safe in its core. However, as monumental as they become, they never lose their roots due to the impressive use of underscored sampling. Functioning as crossed lines via radio transmissions, they intercut with an accidental intrusiveness, eschewing professionalism for intimacy. One moment there will be a broadcast with the tongue-in-cheek reference to the band’s name, next there will be informational testing to measure the cognitive ability of children or a party of people surrounding a lone bass guitar. The album even concludes with an emotional conversation between child and adult, where language loses its barrier. The sampling is exceptional in adding to the atmospheric production through subverting the increasingly expansive nature.

This process is constantly evolving depending on the complexities of the composition, giving off a relaxed vibe no matter how intense. That’s not to say it loses potency or power. “25.60” focuses less on the warping of realties and centralizes on the immediacy of pushing forward. The simple progressive guitar loops are filtered to the point where the level of distortion undergone via the atmosphere and the strings render the piece unrecognizable, starting darkly simplistic and evolving into a futuristic drone concussion. The aforementioned sample of a family gathering spirals into wiry guitars that spring up with ghostly voltaic clouds advecting as the balance of control and chaos blurs for an exhaustive time. As the maw of the drones swell and the the guitars lose integral support, the song experiences a sense of whiplash until the plucking ceases and a relief creeps in. 0.02 is album of expansive landscapes where density never lets up, complexities roam free and wander endlessly, often disrupting and occluding the mix. Samples split into wormhole voids, where sounds often vanish only to reappear elsewhere. Even the final track, “17.03”, drives to be progressive, cooperating as the strings build toward the rising stratus of equal parts distortion and overlaying beauty. Climatic rather than climactic, the movement of intense high pressure to low pressure moves these compositions in natural formations with unnatural tremors. If the samples offer a window into reality, the world of Albur! is one of rapturing insanity coupled with a conscious, alluring aura.

Albur! resembles an echo chamber that slowly forms cracks wherein ideas seep in gradually until they rebound and echo with a profound sense of authority within the composition. The ebb and flow of the dueling backgrounds and oasis string accompaniment create musical structures where the further you explore the walls of the sound, the more interconnectid and fully realized the world becomes. An attention of detail is the core of 0.02; where technical proficiency is lacking, the originality in the fully realized world of Wartez becomes the hook. If the Books manipulated samples with driven guitars hooked into the spines of the samples and melody supercharging them into existence, Albur! tends to approach a much broader and wider composition, using samples stretched and guitars where the spaces in-between, the ripples of the pauses, and the atmosphere collaterally build into awesomely grand meditations. Albur! is the embodiment of the internet age, in artistry and in presentation. Simplifying the music into essentially figurative data, Albur! manages to create a universe within a single room, and forces the listener in through the keyhole. Not since Disco Inferno has a group so effortlessly been able to a simple setup to create arrangements where the message was obvious, but the composition so impossible to nail down. But with 0.02, the complexities and beauty depend on how far you’re willing to stare into the abyssal rabbit hole.

– T. Pennington