Suumhow are one of the latest signings to the notable US electronic label n5MD, home to the likes of Stray Theories, bvdub, Okada, Ococeur amongst many more. Signed as the result of a SoundCloud message, the label felt that this mysterious Brussels based duo’s music hearkened back to the early Minidisc days of the label and set about releasing a highly limited Minidisc edition (limited to 25 copies) alongside CD and digital release of their debut album.
“Crash_Reports is the debut album from Brussel based emotive experimental duo Suumhow. Heavy on glitch, DSP, modular synthesis and circuit bent analog video mixers, “Crash_Reports” has an air of late 90’s / early noughties junked up IDM nostalgia. Suumhow chew up beats with little or no regard for their original structure only to reveal newer forms within the outboard gear mangling. The duo are also adept at adding some humanistic warmth by way of carefully chosen melodies. “Crash_Reports” could be somewhat demanding to listen to at face value, but the aural rewards that the duo thoughtfully reveal in each track is well worth repeated listens.”
One thing I have noticed perusing the n5MD catalogue is that there is a line of melody that runs through the releases. For some the melodic touch is obvious, but for others you have to dig through the darkness, but you will find a melodic core to the music. This album is no exception to this underlying trait.
“.4” straight away we here distant dubby synth lines that are initially obscured by scattershot electronics that bound, crash and cascade across like vicious pulses of sound. The dubby lines grow with a thicker looping melody permeating from them each time, that has a sonic warmth to them. In a way signposts have been revealed early on with two sonic qualities exhibited. Both these are best highlighted with headphone listening to absorb the changing complexities and variations in volume, especially of the scattershot electronics.
“Brus L” an indecipherable electronic voice full of glitching, sputtering sound welcomes a suitably detritus soaked broken beat, which is contrasted and complimented by melodic synth lines. An additional layer of ambient drone sticks its head in rather subtly in the beginning becoming the fourth element of the track. The beat drops out to reveal glitchy ambient tones, synth diversions, flickering sounds, before kicking back into a similar, but not same style as the beginning. The way the synth lines and beats interact makes the track compelling and the differences mean that it’s not overly sweet or dirty.
“Aywaille” named after a central area in Belgium which translates from Latin to “Aqualia loca” which means “area full of water” or “muddy land” and whose residents are called Aqualiens, opens with broken electronics, skittering fractured beats that sound both like a machine coming to life or finally succumbing to death, as alongside light melodic tones. The percussion, for want of a better word/descriptor leads the track with its constant degradation in full effect, while the ambient tones poke holes of intermittent light through the beats. A breakdown leaving just levels of various ambient tones hints at the final death of the machine, before sputters of sound coalesce and the Bea(s)t(s) roars back to life. However, this time the ambience and synth flashes are almost on equal footing in the soundscape. A nice balance is created between the two main elements. Thematically, the title with reference to mud could be a reference to the beats and the way the unfurl, similarly if you were to trudge through mud and the almost stop-start feel of movement.
“Dunningkruger” interestingly the Dunning-Kroger effect in psychology is “a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superior and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is”. I am not sure how this relates or translates musically, but this track sits in the darker territory of the album relying more on layers of fractured beats, broken electronics than it does the melodic dubby Synths. The Synths do make their presence known, but the features is this lattice of off kilter beats, pulsing electronics, echoes, misfires and malfunctioning technology as the duo appear to ring out every last drop from their equipment.
“Carne” melodic waves of pulsing ambience provide the slightest respite before looped broken beats, at times sounding bricks scraping each other, form a propulsive beat which the ambience hangs around. As the track progresses so does the drones which start building in small sections before gently resting before building again. A series of mutated Synths start to crash through almost imitating the feeling of the beats and take over removing the beats. After these Synths oscillate and flashes of ambience filter in, the beats and dub techno style pulsing Synths come back, but the minimal versions of themselves. The Synths share a similar kind of style to the beats and are layered with differing textures.
“Phoebe” instantly electronic noise, decrepit beats, gritty synth, loops of distorted sound all compete together sounding like a collection of instruments falling down a hill, breaking down as they eventually fall into a heap. This is the track on the album that probably defines the title, where it sounds like all semblance of musical composition has disappeared, is actually a highly constructed piece of the noisier spectrum of electronica. Not as musical as per se the other tracks, it does however go through sections of constructed movements, while others sound a bit more free form.
“Small Sky” sounding like eerie field recordings meeting a misfiring instrument, ambient tones slowly make their way alongside progressively noisier static, pulsing noises. The ambience is a sweet as has been heard all album and the sounds, which are definitely not beats, are the noisiest experienced. The degrading equipment is felt to have reached peak mass with the sound coupling together in this writhing, twisting sound being vaguely beat driven that snakes along the track until finally the ambience takes over to the end.
“Neuce” proggy synth progressions sounding like church organs flow in loop form with scattering, spluttering electronics punctuating the sound with interruptions. An off kilter synth line gets swallowed up by a similarly off kilter crunchy broken beat that sounds like a pure, but dirty, IDM beat. There are squelchy sounds which are part of the percussion and help drive the track, as the off kilter synth gives the track a wobbly equilibrium and gives a slight feeling of unease.
“Cetii” a stormy beach sound with field recordings could just be more breaking down electronics. There is this ominous sub bass rumble to the track with various layers of different frequencies pulsing and throbbing before a disjointed synth pushes through to be the focal point. The synth, which is a layer of a bed of twisting sounds has the feel of the sonic equivalent of a flag being tossed around in the air. The track has the most abstract sound compared to others on the album and exists more in the experimental sound art sphere. I would be curious to know if the track title and musical theme is influenced in any way by the French environmental engineering company of the same nane that specialise in airtightness and infrared thermography, which is the study of infrared energy emitted from an object and converted to temperature, such is the environmental feel of the track.
As debuts go “Crash_Reports” is one best enjoyed on a set of headphones to capture all the subtleties, nuances and textures. It harkens back to a time when IDM was interesting, exciting and innovative, and follows this progression. Tracks like “Brus L” “Aywalle” that successfully balance the elements are the highlights for me. There is a care taken to construct a cavernous, multifaceted sound that reveals more as you delve deeper into the album. If your musical taste various from the sweet melodies to a slice of dirty, gritty music, then “Crash_Reports” will not disappoint. “Crash_Reports” is out on n5MD on July 27.