Ling Attachment [EP]

[Codes/PAN; 2016]

Styles: club collage, meaning-making, microcomposition
Others: ADR, Arca, Acre, Autechre

After a series of fractured techno and grime tracks on the Anthracite EP, Attachment stands out for drummer-turned-producer Ling as a wildly different beast, a “data-centric collection” that explores “themes of habitual mental tendencies” in a calculating and highly rhythmic mindset. Described as a sound collage but also delving heavily into wonky, experimental beatwork, the Attachment EP possesses a fickle energy, obeying the laws of club momentum but leaping at every available chance to go off script and chew scenery. Concepts butt in and steal the flow of the music; songs frequently slip into abstract demonstrations of texture and loose percussion. This is a record about instinctual interpretation, which is another way to say that these rhythms perform entirely for themselves; they are beats predicated on esoteric structures that never get revealed to the listener. These structures live inside Ling’s head as emotionally communicable ideas. Subtle movements and diversions emerge from within the pieces that reveal Ling’s modular, tightly controlled aesthetic.

“Thuril Whirl” begins the album as a minuscule symphony of split-second samples, ringing and pinging in dense clusters, barely-melodies blossoming out of deeply non-musical clicks and clinks, electrified and musicalized, Fantasia in a factory full of pins and needles. It’s composed in a way that initially feels incredibly alien, but a few listens reveals an ornate logic beneath the transient noise, each plink of glass or metal contributing to an intricate, subtle melody that unfolds throughout the piece. Occasionally, some text-to-speech might say the name of the EP, and it gets briefly, wonderfully golden and droney near the end; otherwise, the bulk of the song is dedicated to exploring the sheer potential of resonating digital/metal hits as a method for sound sculpting. Each song on the EP takes time to excavate an idea like this wholly, but “Thuril Whir” stands tall as a marvel of microcomposition, a glassy, gorgeous skeleton.

Ling plays with harmony like air in a balloon, letting a little squeak out in places, but not too much, as if they have only a little to last the length of the EP. Instead, repeated phrases idle, songs hover in emotional stasis, then switch to longish bouts of percussion composition; intricate and interconnected, they carry the beat with loose, scattered hits that land like two magnets meeting. On “44 Blue,” Ling’s synth use is slightly more at the forefront, a bright bell tone cascading over beats assembled from reclaimed scrap and lap harp strings. They clasp shut and click open in time, while screens and fixtures slide into place, mobile and self-modifying. “Jezmonite” starts in cavernous space but quickly compresses itself into a shifting, perplexing sequence of laser-cut kicks and clacks, juxtaposing trap chirps against Autechrian pressure waves. Ling lets long stretches of silence go for all they’re worth, keenly attuned to how to control mood between passages of new ideas. All the songs on Attachment bear some guiding melody, but only enough of it to define them, then the song shifts and remains permanently modular, making constant anagrams.

Ling possesses a masterful level of control over the music, sharing similar aims with other sound designers in the current zeitgeist: the metallic, THX-crunch-wave sound design of Tri Angle artists, the frigid beatwork of PAN peers like Visionist, glitchy Arca textures, even a bit of Elysia Crampton’s digi-world systems on “Canthem.” But all of it fit is to Ling’s particular, unique syntax. The considerable diversions and abstractions amid songs create a unique impression of Ling as an artist, for they appear to open up and reveal, between moments of more fluidly composed and restrained music, the diversity of thoughts Ling has on a song’s possible construction and the choices the producer ultimately makes. This process of deconstruction reveals the bad habits and mental tendencies of the artist, then borrows the proofs to solve interesting musical equations. Thus, the music is club-ready as well as cerebral and openly intimate, Ling’s identity as a producer emerging as a desire path.

Links: Ling - Codes/PAN

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