Galcid // Hope & Fear
(Detroit Underground)

It’s easy for mastery of synthesis to become about subtlety and refinement – using a wall of modular to elicit the perfect tone. But what about pushing to the other extreme? Sometimes you want to see someone with towers of equipment wrenching unimaginable cascades of sonics out of ungainly patches, with all the grit and dirt left in for good measure. Formerly a duo, now solely the work of Lena Saito, Galcid is one such venture where you can have some faith that all that lush studio gear isn’t going to waste. Saito has returned to Detroit Underground, a label with its own embrace of futurism and technology as a wild and unknowable frontier. The result is an album that snarls out its identity in a flash.

The dazzling array zapping through the opening stretch of ‘Awareness’ is hard to fathom – it’s an acrobatic display of what can be achieved across the stereo field. The sound palette is a noisy mix of analogue and digital blips, shrieks and thumps, pushed into the red and placed right up front so the sculptural imagery of the sound occupies your cerebral cortex. It’s an exercise in engineering as much as an expression – a celebration of what machine music can do when you let the machines set the tone.

There are more conventional moments – the acidic throb coursing through ‘Undulation’ feels like a familiar foothold even if the overall construct of the track is brilliantly non-standard. There is also some space for melodic levity, such as on ‘Electronic Flash’ which pivots around a beautiful, skittering chord tone. But by and large, this is a place to enter when you want to be shocked by the startling newness of everything. The cyberpunk styling is hard to refute when it’s executed this well. With this album, Saito has laid out a formidable case for her position amongst the upper echelons of contemporary machine manglers.

This review was originally published as part of Juno Daily’s Albums of the Week round-up.