‘The Outer Church’ is a compilation of music created by artists who have played at Joseph Stannard’s Brighton club night of the same name, brought to you by Front & Follow records, one of the most adventurous and essential labels currently in operation. The sermon begins with Embla Quickbeam’s ripples of gong and glassy whispered ringing; a clatter of bells, distantly heard. This haunting opening isn’t wasted; rarely has a compilation as deep as this (28 tracks and over two hours of music) so completely gripped my attention. A listener could dip in at any point and be soaked in richly rewarding aural waters; but a long immersive soak is to experience a musical epiphany: this is simply one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.
Kemper Norton’s indefinable, troubling noise-folk. Juddering technicolour sample mangling by VHS Head. Pye Corner Audio references rave, John Carpenter, and 70s horror soundtracks in a few short minutes. Hacker Farm’s creaking industro-paranoia. The Warp-like beats and poignant melodies of Angkorwat. The melted synth pop of Hong Kong in the 60s. Anna Meredith’s percussive, woody, clanging rainfall. BrokenThree’s gusting drone and hissing techno pulse. The desolate, hopelessly beautiful wastelands of Old Apparatus. This compilation is bursting with head-expanding wonders.
‘The Outer Church‘ is a state of the under-nation address, a thick mossy sonic tome that will bear endless re-reading. It feels like a summation; a statement; but of and about what? The sounds are too broad to be easily corralled into a single framework, a sole over-arching umbrella. Appropriately for something as spectral and haunted as this, I think it’s more a collection in spirit, rather than style; the artists share a commitment to exploring the weird hinterlands of electronica; the spaces largely unmapped by the urban hardcore continuum or ascetic art-noise.
‘The Outer Church’ deserves a wide congregation; its unholy clerics have built a fine cathedral, empty of dusty relics, replaced instead with live humming artefacts. A ‘No New York’ of contemporary oddtronica, documenting the musical interstices of the current avant-garde; this album performs a vital service: an inspiration and invitation to others; it offers so many avenues to explore, so much to think about. It is a wonderful, paradoxical, impossible thing: a feast that leaves you hungry.