Carter – Repeating/Patterns (2015)


Comprised of 15 tracks recorded during improvised sessions during last Summer, Neil Carter’s Repeating/Patterns is his own personal foray into the weird territory of taming the beast that is the modular synth. The result is mirrored in the album art; a kaleidoscopic array of idiosyncratic pieces that tumble organically out of the machine, each new piece comprised of the same building blocks but subtly different in its environment, variable in its dynamics and restructured through soft and hazy processing.

Many of the pieces here are relatively short and most sort of fall as more intermediary or bridging tracks to help structurally link the longer works together; 55 second-er “RP_05” for instance is a brief, quasi-Autechre interlude that secretes itself out in a jumbled and brief flurry of complementary but terse synth tones, helping to meet the middleground between the damaged and decomposing bursts of glitch and static in preceding “RP_04” that sees the synth at its most crushed, and the soft noodling and shimmering tonal mirages of “RP_06” and “RP_07”, their presentation far more lightweight as they tinkle and thrum in playful cycles.

Much of the groundwork is naturally laid down in the opening pieces, with “RP_01” the foundational track with a distinctively Bissonnette slant to its burbling synth tones floating out in these apparently spontaneous and generative bubbles of melody, faintly aquatic in its wet reverb before moving into the much more active and actually outlying “RP_02”, with its heavy rhythmic dominance and methodical, emotionally distant coolness. The tonal range and colour emplaced in these two tracks is the crux of the album and some variation can be found in all the rest, although some are more forthright; “RP_09” seems to retain much of that familial bond but is crafted into a more disjointed and fragmentary entity, finding itself collapsing into echoic and claustrophobic darkness; this is something of an increasing trend in the album’s latter half, as “RP_11” also finds itself briefly flirting with idiosyncrasy in its smeared and molten pleasantry, falling away into drone abandon.

The meat of much of the record is tied up in the later pieces, which are provided an opportunity to play longer and work through ideas in a more expanded way; “RP_10” continues the work of “RP_09” as its squashed bleeps and pulses are overrun by degradation and fight with competing spirals of kaleidoscopic intrusion, instigating a chaotically buzzing and crazed atmosphere, finding itself at some odds to the thin and lonely minor keys of “RP_12”, drifting on bubbles of supportive but evaporating thought that carry our moroseness into the overriding emptiness that surrounds it. “RP_13” proceeds it with appropriately chasmic drone reverberance, softly pushing that encroaching listlessness being driven forwards. Everything comes to a head in the longform “RP_14”, which, at just over 8 minutes, vastly out trumps the runtime of every other track and allows for a much deeper and careful migration of hushed synth abrasions, lost in a luxurious bath of notably stable and cool textural drone, bowing out in satisfyingly final irradiant sustained notes.

Slightly disappointing to me is that “RP_14” isn’t the logical closer it ought to be, but “RP_15” and its growling miasma and abrupt sonic transformations end things on a somewhat more cumbersome note; it isn’t terrible but it does feel perhaps a little unnecessary, out of place, in what is otherwise a relatively seamless entity overall. It’s experimental and comes across as a little tentative as a result of that, I can’t say that it’s always particularly gripping from an emotional standpoint and I wish there were fewer short pieces in favour of longer and better realised ones, but it’s crisp and polished to a high sheen throughout and with more variety than you’d expect.