Suburban Lights by Ross Khmil


Ross Khmil
Suburban Lights (Hellscape Records; CS/DL)

Kiev-based Ross Khmil has been twisting knobs and plugging in wires for the last few years, and has delivered a most unusual tape in the form of Suburban Lights. The release includes a half dozen tracks each running on average at about nine minutes, so you get a full spectrum of effects. It’s glassy synth and old-school organ feel are in sweet contradiction from the start of the title track. This young guy has a sound that evokes turn-of-the-century carnies paired with a cut-rate 60’s b-flick. On his second or third tape release, depending on where you can locate information, the hollow spin and chordal shifts are awkwardly graceful. The balance is tricky, and quite trippy in the same breath. I almost feel he is hand churning an old 78 platter backwards while juggling with his other hand. There are, in fact, even tape loop half-pauses inserted, a wink of sorts.


This is Detroit-based imprint Hellscape Records‘ fourth release, and I’d pay attention as this is the all-encompassing sound of youthful, raw sampled and re-imagined collage soundscapes. Beside from the dips into ambient, here we experience the galaxy of gaming as re-interpreted on the unusually bent Dreamers. Not only does Khmil use warped phasers, the overall vintage feel is not unlike what you are starting to hear in Netflix sci-fi anthems and the like. It’s a post-slacker sensibility with a punk attitude. But he’s also on to some weird synergy between retro and Krautrock – it’s really quite psychedelic in structure, laminated in a sound that’s the equivalent of multicolored dripping wax.

His use of toy piano on Infant Magic is balletic and slightly ‘off’. Though it’s a synergistic fit with drunken tape loops filled with pretty halftone harmonies. Mighty Nature mixes reverse rhythms with a forlorn drone that about ten minutes in starts to sound like a cheesy new age theme and outtakes from The Beatles’ White Album playing simultaneously. Something odd this way comes. But it’s the startling conclusion that most kids will want to stay for via Ultra Recall 1993. Was that the year of the budding composer or a comment on the era?


It’s a meandering, woozy piece plagued by a mysterious player operating singular keystrokes in succession, edited in an effectively broken down way. The synths are sick, no I mean it, they sound like they are spinning in circles on low, and drifting. These multiple layers of drone and clone should clash, but only seem to speak in a stylish solidarity – only criticism is the way the ending trails off, otherwise this is one of those big Summer surprises.

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