Album Review

The Host

The Host

By The Host

Planet Mu
7 / 10
8th May 2012

By Martyn Pepperell

Folding song titles like 'org', 'Neo-Geocities' and 'Second Life' together with dreamy 90s CGI redolent album artwork, The Host's self-titled debut album, in terms of aesthetics and themes, plays heavily upon a continuum of cyperpunk/hacker internet culture stretching back to January 1985. As those who have dug into the source code will be aware though, calling The Host a debut album is somewhat of a misnomer, because truth be told, The Host is the latest alias to be adopted by Barry Lynn, better known within the bass archipelagos as Boxcutter.

Stepping away from the conventional-to-experimental dubstep narratives that characterise his Boxcutter releases, The Host sees him articulate his impulses with vintage drum machines, synthesisers, guitar, bass and reverb units. Through this practice, he animates a vividly textured soundworld, one which reaches back to the html-coded visions of the future evident in the late 80s/early 90s cyberspace informed spheres of electronica. Played and recorded in a live manner, with the added obsessive detailing of a computer music composer, the records theme, look and sound, plays homage to internet culture and internet music as it is, and as it could have (and could still be).

Musically grounded in hypnotic, understated frames, the songs, much like loading a visual heavy website on a dial-up modem in the 90s, often hang in tantalising anticipation, before suddenly and kaleidoscopically, hitting you at once. From a few stray drops of colour, tone and ambience to an ocean of polyphonic synthesiser melodies, punchy programmed drums (with matching bass thumps) and fuzzy incidentals, the overall effect is reflective of the increasingly messy laptop screens which often result from an extended stint in the world wide web.

The album opener 'Neo-Geocities' slowly tumbles into action, matching bleeps evocative of 8-bit video game soundtrack tones (comfort food for the ears?) with slowly building slanted grooves and an increasingly maximal degree of fuzz. This plays setup to the dystopian cyborg arrangements turned Wild Palms recalling oriental minimalism of 'Angel Fire', leading into the sci-fi soundtrack guitar meets digital drone pad textures of 'Internet Archaeology', a number which switches from ambient to rhythmically engaging, through delay and reverb heavy drum sequences and bubbling arpeggiated tones. 'Tryptamine Sweep' leans on Chicago footwork drum patterns and futuristic melodic textures, a launch pad for the wavy multi-layered synth melody and tasteful guitar that dominates 'Hidden Ontology'. The digital dream aspects of The Host's sound continue through 'Org' and '3am Surfing' before hitting a structural peak on 'Second Life', a song with impeccable melodic and rhythmic sensibilities.

From thereon in, the record cycles through different takes on the hazy, shimmering themes laid down over its first eight songs. Playing with a dynamic between this-is-what-it-feels-like-to-be-in-cyberspace new age ambience jams and washy throwback yet forward looking rhythmic numbers, things gently (and not so gently) wind down, concluding with the drone driven, yet emotively optimistic vibes of 'Birthday Bluebells'.

You could do a lot worse with the next forty two minutes of your life than listen to The Host.






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