Released ahead of their incoming full-length Time Lapse on May 8th, the UK electronic outfit worriedaboutsatan offers a glimpse of things to come
Label: Sound In Silence
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
It’s a green field of fabric that brings to mind vintage children’s books, and upon it is placed a Polaroid-shaped frame of white.
The image encased in these borders is of what appears to be a subway train or light rail, with small porthole columns for windows flanking the larger columns of a double door, the metal gleaming against the primary yellow and red of the barriers at the edge of a platform, both platform and reflective ceiling curving away into some blue and distant space.
This is the cover of Crystalline, the sixth and newest album from Bradford-based post-rock/electronic wizard Gavin Miller under the name worriedaboutsatan, who finds himself on the Sound In Silence label after previous releases with venerable outre outfits such as Denovali, Fields, and Last Night On Earth. It’s also the first worriedaboutsatan full-length since the departure of long-time collaborator Thomas Ragsdale. As the project began with Miller alone in 2005, so it dovetails in the present, Miller flying solo once more.
With eight new pieces totaling under 40 minutes, Crystalline is a concise, ingratiating listen that never strays too far from the project’s hallmarks, while pushing things forward with a few new wrinkles and surprises. The sparse ambient filigrees of guitar, synth, and minimalist beats are joined here and there by the ghostly vocal presence of Sophie Green (Her Name Is Calla), with this new contributor providing some of Crystalline’s most stirring and haunting moments. Sounds slip in and out of vision, only to disappear towards the limits of perception like that curving train platform, both an implied future and a possible destination, a mystery and a promise at once.
Gently panning static graces the first moments of ‘Open The Door’, which soon unfolds into the snowbound, star-gazing churn of early M83, slowly building a sense of twilit distance before an aching mass of strings lifts the track heavenward. Later, ‘Step Inside’ blossoms as a sunlit processional flanked by sky-streaking synths and mechanical trap beats. ‘Mirrors’ writhes with pastel 80s synth stabs, while ‘Secretly’ stands heartbroken and wistful at the edge of an expansive field. By the time we reach closer ‘Switching Off’, all layers drift away, leaving only ghostly swells of voice and synth snaking across the blue horizon, all shadow and light at play beneath a vast eternity.
Crystalline bears none of the usual unsure-footing that so many musical projects exhibit after the departure of a crucial member. Instead, Miller’s work here is confident and assured, playful but tender, each track a revelation among similar but shimmering themes. It’s a solid effort from an artist who knows that whether alone or joined by others, he’ll always have something sonically compelling to share with us. For that we’re lucky to have him still around, blessing us with such devastating gifts.
AUDIO: worriedaboutsatan Crystalline (full album)