Grand Mal X | Retrospektiv 2010–2016
Swedish duo Grand Mal x flirt between old school electro patterns and more modern DSP shapes, combining the two into an irresistibly propulsive funk on some tracks and a much more abstract terrain on others. Retrospektiv 2010 – 2016 is a collection of previously released material, originally from various tape labels and one track that had until now been unreleased.
The album crackles into life with “laced pork chops”, an oblique soundscape that bristles with electrified energy and dark synth tones. One of the most experimental tracks, it is also the track that was previously unreleased, and happens to be the first ever piece of recorded output from the band. So an interesting intro to the album, not to mention literally the intro to the project’s life.
There is a stark change in vibe with the following track, “vortex as inverted pyramid”, most immediately noticeable by its higher production values. It’s a low slung, late night groover recalling the more mellow end of Detroit techno. It’s followed by “stealth minds”, a darker, more sinister sounding electro track with weird vocals adding extra tension. Its bass line is infectious, synth lines moody and all succeed in a real head-nodder of a track.
Slow funk is a recurring theme, again found on “late night call”, all descending bass lines and groaning analogue stabs, with more processed vocals infusing a sense of unease. More upbeat is “a sudden portal” which channels an 80s pop sensibility that sounds really refreshing at the mid point of the album, the synths shining brighter and the melodies sounding happier. This mood is shattered suddenly by the arrival of “il capitano”, a digitally processed, noisy and altogether more industrial affair, its shouted vocals bursting through and creating a discordant sense of dread in its two-minute running time.
The last two tracks close out the collection with the longest track lengths and by introducing introverted ambience. “shamanic frequency” is eight minutes of lush synth swells, field recordings and arpeggios that result in a gorgeous drift. Occasional wow and flutters of tape manipulation disturb the flow, but in quite a pleasant way. Final track, “observing from a quiet mind” is the most minimal here, a low sustained chord taking its sweet time to put the listener into a meditative state before adding other elements to the mix. These sounds are quiet and added slowly, never crowding the sound field, and transport the end of this collection into otherworldly realms.