Available on: Fat City 12″ EP

Recently profiled by FACT, Manchester’s Illum Sphere is steadily gathering acclaim on both the strength of his own productions and his Hoya: Hoya clubnight. Here he releases Long Live the Plan, the first EP in a two-part series on local label Fat City.

Opening track ‘Long Live the Plan’ is an exercise in immaculate atmospherics. Whilst its gritty city theatrics initially verge on the hammy, its crackling muddle of sirens and bleak noir-cityscape standards offer a jarringly evocative introduction to Illum Sphere’s sound. As it segues fluidly into ‘Better Late State’s solemn, whipping percussion, the EP’s lofty presence begins to take shape. Loose, scattered kicks offer a vague, untraditional rhythmic anchoring, but the record’s ponderous snap-ridden pathos steps with utter self-assurance.

The looming lope of ‘Psycho’, however, is a world apart – its drudging sub-bass about as close as you can get to a genuinely threatening aural experience. When coupled with the discordant hum of the track’s power-tool synthesizers, it only takes a glimmer of skewed vocals to cement the tracks pervasive intensity. But while this psychotic muscle flexing is destined for big rig business, it lets up briefly with a suitably manic breakdown of off-hand technicolour. So it’s unsurprising when Flying Lotus collaborator Samiyam takes on remix duty that this flash of 8-bit is adopted as the primary colour of a noose-tight re-shuffle by the Californian.

As panicked clicking and high pressure drums tear haphazardly through the opening of ‘Never Lie Twice’, for a brief second Illum Sphere seems lost in his leftfield approach. Perhaps it’s the bulbous kick drums, but something doesn’t gel. This feeling’s short-lived however, washed away by the triumphant arrival of a unifying synthline, its woozy strains uniting the track’s incongruent segments in a moment of warm satisfaction that bleeds digital summertime.

As the EP’s B-side develops with the taut ‘Shadowman’ and firefly shimmer of ‘Chasing the Midnight Moth’, a markedly more upbeat approach is aired, trilling synthesizers and blustering beats demonstrating the range – and depth – of sound on offer here. An artist with no obvious adherence to traditional musical methodology, Illum Sphere’s Long Live the Plan perhaps isn’t one for the dancefloor, but its multi-faceted approach and mastery of atmospherics renders it more than worthy.

Mike Coleman



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