Shelley Parker // Wisteria

If we think of rave as an inherently experimental genre, which it surely started out as, Shelley Parker’s new album is digging back into that energy to split the difference between cerebral sound art and infectious, physical club gear. Parker’s work to date is a little tricky to pin down. Most reading this would have likely picked up on her 12” for Hessle Audio, 2018’s Red Cotton, but she’s worked as a composer, performer and producer for over 20 years. Other releases have popped up on Entr’acte and OOH-Sounds, and she has a small label of her own called Structure, but she doesn’t seem to follow typical artistic trajectories as defined by the music industry. 

As such, she sounds positively free on Wisteria, working according to her own internal logic. There is a sense of the past for sure – of time-stretched sampling, effects processing and resampling, noisy artifacts – but Parker’s approach to the broad church of hardcore is with an avant garde sensibility, which those processes were when they were first embarked on by producers in the late 80s and early 90s. And so, you get to enjoy non-linear arrangements and psychoactive sound design as an experimental trait, not a basic part of the rave formula. 

Parker’s own signature style within this field feels as indebted to post-industrial music as rave, with steely textures and a pervading gloom defining the countenance of the album. In fact, there’s a clue in the title. Wisteria is a sprawling, tangled and inquisitive plant – some might say it’s a little aggressive. Musically, Parker has echoed the tangled pathways along which hardcore, techno and other rave genres have mutated since their genesis, picking up qualities from industrial, noise and dub through their myriad evolutions. The dynamics of soundsystem-oriented music abide, but the quaking sub-bass, rasping drums and repetitive passages are ornamented and disrupted with dense atmospherics and abrasive tones. It’s an album which celebrates and contextualises the heritage of rave while offering a different way to experience it, bound up in eight imposing compositions.  

Previously published at Juno Daily, reposted with kind permission.