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a ritual loop
Per Mission
A Ritual Loop
Monitor

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Mastered by Matmos. It's a slogan that would sell cars, and should flag to the average CD-punter that you're in for an interesting listen. This disc was buffed up by the San Fran sound-masters, but the rough cuts must have been impressive on their own, given that this album is the brainchild of Jason Noble (Rachel's), and features members of Rachel's, Shipping News and other such seminal/weird acts. This all-star creation has already appeared on a compilation disc and cassette-only release, but this is the first time it's been let loose in a full-length style. And it's surprisingly good. Bassy, quasi-electronica weirdness is the future, and these guys know it. Hell, they are it.

Opening with a flurry of typewriteresque beats, "Two Stories" sets the album's schizophrenic scene immediately. As the title indicates, two stories are dictated simultaneously over the sounds of manual recording. The effect is supremely unsettling -- the listener can't discern the individual strands in their entirety, lending the endeavor a "what the fuck?" atmosphere that permeates the rest of the disc. Cheap beats and the sound of cassette-tape blend into a mix so uncertain that one can't tell whether it's a live instrument, a sample, a voice of something else entirely that's coming out of the speakers. There's a low-fi lounge ambience permeating the album; "Friends are..." sounds like your lounge-room -- if your lounge-room had a seven-foot devil standing in the far corner. Narration -- especially in segmented and broken forms -- is all over the disc. Nature is likened to bone, the description of cricket-songs takes a menacing tone. Clearly, things aren't all they could be in Louisville. And it's up to you to penetrate the mystery, and figure out what the hell's going on.

The only real criticism I have of this disc is that it perhaps doesn't carry its themes as far as it should. It's unsettling, but some tunes don't seem to push their ideas far enough -- "The Aureate" is a perfect example. Taken a bit further, these tunes could surpass anything trip-hop has dished up so far, both in close-quarters paranoia and distant evocation of blurry memory. While the CD is not as ambient as I'd expected (or as it's billed, rather), and lacks the clarity of some of the work Noble has been party to as a Rachel's member, A Ritual Loop is a carefully constructed, fucked-up-and-paranoid delight. Just be sure to keep the light on when you listen.

-- Luke Martin
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