Review: Morphology – Lack Of Light (Abstract Forms)

Morphology – Lack Of Light (Abstract Forms)

I’m slowly beginning to get my head around the possibility that the current hunger for deeper sounds isn’t the passing fad I once thought it was and might instead be indicative of something, err, deeper. What exactly that might be I don’t know. What I do know is that the move towards similar sounds in electro has occasionally left me in two minds – still enjoying it, but worrying that some of the elements which separate the genre and make it what it is have been jettisoned, smoothing it down until it seems little different to an awful lot of the beige techno out there at the moment.

Lack Of Light from Morphology gave me similar cause for concern on my first couple of listens. Needlessly, as it turn out. While the EP is certainly up there with some of the deeper electro records that have come my way over the last year or two, it quickly dispatches with all the fashionable pretensions, the grand vistas and the sweeping symphonic statements; the carefully measured beats. Instead, Lack Of Light delivers a darkened, internalized experience where the moods are locked away in spaces that daylight seldom reaches. It’s not so much a deep record, in fact, as an icy one; an EP that feels and sounds distant and unreachable, but also haunting.

This works both in and against its favour. On Amphidiscosa, perhaps the most mellow material on the record, the tune opens out enough to allow its emotional heart a little more room. It’s a decidedly pretty number, with a silvery riff and plaintive leads, but it dreaminess puts it at odds with the frostiness it otherwise displays, and with the rest of the EPs more substantial, elemental, nature. Turbidite Sequence goes the other way, and carves out a thoroughly abstract piece that shears away anything Amphidiscosa’s pensive energy, replacing it instead with an angular, robotic dunt, relying on the spectral pads to offer some sense of depth.

Neither are bad tunes, but neither do they mount a charge at the boundaries of the genre which are now commonplace. And while the other two tracks on the EP are certainly birthed from the same sonic experience, they wear it better, convince more, and move with a purpose Amphidiscosa and Turbidite Sequence never quite realise despite their artistry.

Hydrothermal Vent, in particular, shrugs off any need to prove itself and simply furnishes a groove that is entirely based in low riding, shimmering funk, the beats immediately coming to the fore to alternately strengthen and tear the tight weave of bass and pads above them. Further accented by rivulets of bleeps that tie the vibe into one of late-night, brain tightening adventure, it retains a vertigo inducing mix of distance and claustrophobia. Luminescent Organism continues with this blend of disorienting, engulfing energy, but builds a palpable sense of anxiety from guttural squawks and little growls which echo around the mean tempered bass. There is also a measure of restraint apparent in both tunes; they steal back from overly obvious influences, and keep in check the temptation to layer on the heavy ‘dark’ vibe which could so easily tip into parody or self-reverence.

The problem with a lot of ‘deep’ electronica is that it tends to rob the listener of a sense of emotional connection, which is at real odds with what it is essentially trying to do. It is a reasonable but not entirely desirable side effect of a style that all too frequently tries to wow itself with the quality of its sound design, and it seems to be increasingly rare to find producers who, understanding the weirdness of that sort of cognitive dissonance, refuse to allow the emotional centre of the music to be upstaged by the warbling frequencies. While there are moments on Lack of Light which do not entirely come together as perfectly as you might like, when they do they foster an atmospheric trip which is up there with the best. Further still, Morphology have shown themselves once again to be of a vanishingly small band of producers who understand that ‘mood music’, and emotions can be more than flowery colouring: it can also be sharp, unsettling, and provoking. A qualified success, yes, but one where the flaws accent the depth of the ideas on offer.