Available on: Deep Medi 10″

‘Zebulon’ (clip)

The crawling, creeping floor of distortion that blanketed mysterious Deep Medi entity Old Apparatus’ first release – along with its distinct use of detuned and dangling string instruments – couldn’t help but recall mid-period Nine Inch Nails.  It was one of the few strands of Apparatus’ sound that wasn’t entirely ineffable, their image and quietly timeless sound the perfect fodder for the encroaching Boomkat-driven narratives of hauntology and artifact fetishism. Either way, it was a promising debut EP, bringing in sounds and ideas usually ignored into “bass music” and showing that Deep Medi was determined to be more than just your local half-step outlet store.

The follow-up is, as ever, unexpected, because here Old Apparatus has given us two very approachable three-minute chunks rather than the quasi-symphonic nine minute suites that took up both sides of their debut. First up is ‘Hammerhand’, a section taken from the first EP and updated with a vocal from Mowgli. The vocalist’s wonderfully ambiguous accent suits the vaguely foreign music to a tee, and the subtle use of reverb makes his verses sound alternately cavernous and frighteningly inward, but unfortunately his cadence and flow fail to match the gently staggered, uneven beat. It’s an interesting idea and pulls Apparatus’ music closer to some more strictly UK narrative, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

Thankfully, A-side ‘Zebulon’ rights those wrongs, the “pop moment” done with all the flair and finesse you didn’t know you could find on Deep Medi. If the key reference for Old Apparatus’ previous music was Trent Reznor, here it’s Dead Can Dance, from the regal, Lisa Gerrard-recalling vocal performance to the airy synths and subtly orientalist flourishes: string instruments tuned to foreign scales, pipes and flutes, all those new age cornerstones. It steadily hobbles forward on a jerky sway borrowed from dubstep, and when those echoing cocked-gun snares are underlined by the LFO basslines that quiver underneath, the effect is one just as powerful as it is beautiful. It’s tempting to say what’s most impressive about Old Apparatus is how he/she/they manage(s) to take decidedly ignored musical references and themes – Nine Inch Nails, Dead Can Dance – into a realm where they previously didn’t exist, but that’s not giving he/she/them enough credit. Artists like this rarely surface so completely developed, and even if they’re not entirely perfect 100% of the time, they’re trying their darndest, and who could ask for more?

Andrew Ryce



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