BTU Without Armour

[Phantasy Sound; 2013]

Styles: Tropicália-techno, Detroit beat-down
Others: Babe, Terror; SCII; U

Babe, Terror’s Claudio Szynkier seems comfortable with ambiguity, with the warped and the near-indistinguishable. Pre-disposed to operating in the conceptual vein of Tropicália (a 1960s avant-garde movement in his homeland Brazil), Szynkier loops and screws his own voice to construct pastiches that bears the influence of lo-fi and the analog nature of his experimental predecessors, adding modern flourishes and colors from the worlds of experimental electronic music.

Szynkier’s Without Armour sees him paired with U, a relatively enigmatic producer operating in London. Their collaboration, unusual by nature, came through simultaneously working on a copy of a cassette left in a mutual friend’s car, before remixing both the reworked tapes into one work.

Those who follow 2012’s “hot trend” vaporwave will perhaps be familiar with the end product of the vocal manipulation apparent on this work, which brings to mind Macintosh Plus’ Floral Shoppe (and to some degree Daniel Lopatin’s Memory Vague), but it’s plain to see that Szynkier’s chasing an entirely different aesthetic to the aforementioned (and their devoted replicants). It’s not one of noxious and vibrant super-sheen, but a warped and disfigured disintegration of humanity.

On “Governement” and “Swordbeerfish,” Szynkier’s reversed and rearranged vocals float over a greasy modal groove, one lurching with barely quantized loops and plodding side-chaining, before a manic saxophone flutters in glitched delirium. While the chaotic assembly is a daunting landscape to penetrate with certainty, as the track progresses, visibility in Szynkier and U’s approach presents itself to the listener. The melodies, despite their awkward realization, follow arcs and structures that echo the contemporary approach to electronica. So too on “Blueen,” which reaches its climax at a repeated, shuddering cadence — though one imbued with characteristic warbling and moaning.

Texturally, Without Armour continues Szynkier’s use of his voice as an object to be toyed with in an uncompromising manner. The shameless, unrepenting destruction and subsequent reconstruction of his own voice on earlier releases had an endearing, introverted nature, but this latest exercise is skewed toward the gloomier and abrasively grimier world of timbres: what was once relatively lucid is now hazily nightmarish and sickly. It’s far removed from some realization of noise-pop, but amounts in and of itself as a bittersweet conflagration of haze-candy.

Despite this being released as a collaboration, one can’t escape noticing how strong Szynkier’s presence on the overall production is. U’s ambiguous nature has the same allure as that of Burial, but lacks the musical impression to define a character visible on the record. Sure, there are noticeable electronic fragments inhabiting scant moments of the project’s actualization that point to another hand being involved, but at the same time, it doesn’t convince as being a joint effort. In many ways Without Armour is a solid follow-up to last year’s Knights, inhabiting a similar sonic world, moving beyond mere collage, but it doesn’t reveal itself as a bold conceptual or realized product of two individual artists creating art in synergy.

Links: BTU - Phantasy Sound

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