I’m all for experimental music – if artists didn’t push boundaries and explore different sounds then the world of music would’ve gotten dull in it’s infancy, with the same material being created over and over. By the same token though, artists need to remember that their experiments have to sound good and interesting – experimenting counts for nothing if it is dull. Unfortunately that’s something that Charlatan doesn’t always remember on Local Agent, his new album and first for the usually reliable record label Umor Rex. Among a few moments of inspired music, most of the album is dull, experimental for the sake of experimenting, and ultimately average.
The first two tracks Switchblade and Blur Suit see the first thirteen minutes pass by completely unspectacularly. Deep cathartic dub bass is interesting at first, but that wears off far too quickly. Experimental clicks and noises come in over the top, and they build up louder and faster, but they’re dull and don’t really lead up to anything that’s great musically or at all interesting. The Cure is also another mess of noise, which again sounds good to start, but the appeal is lost quickly – and the addition of a beat and whirring noises doesn’t make it any more interesting, it just sounds like a deconstruction of a bad dance track. The rest of the release continues in much the same way, a series of experiments and tracks which hold literal interest, again building but to nothing. The oblique noises of Double Blind just remove from that sweet bass drone, while the mechanical whirring of Antiprism is obnoxious at best.
But there are some good moments. Lonely City and Skulled are sublime pieces of experimental music that work. The former has a great repetitive synth melody that beautifully sets the scene the title portrays, while those bursts of high pitched whistles are fantastic and the ebb and flow really draws you in. The sound pallet and layered depth to the latter sounds alien and confusing in the best of ways. Not quite as interesting, but still better than the rest, Nightmaring has more of that great dub bass and the more controlled bursts of noise and the way it builds is great.
In terms of the bonus track, there’s a Black Hat remix of Switchblades which is fantastic, the added beat alongside that great bass makes for a nice rhythmic track with the swirling processed ambience in the background going well with the rest of it. Definitely a heck of a lot better than the original. But it’s the only good one in a bad bunch, the rest are just another painfully dull array of dull (failed?) experiments that are hard to sit through until the end, they’re simply uninteresting.
Overall it’s a dull album with a few moments of brilliance, Lonely City and Skulled are highly recommended – but I wouldn’t be sitting through the whole release again.
A full stream of the album can be heard here.