Although we’re quickly descending into the Summer months and eschewing of dark, melancholic music listening that’s more befitting of Winter, sometimes records come along that pepper the light with a special kind of smokiness that demand attention. Long after the cool atmospheric brilliance of debut Sublunar, Ikin does exactly that, returning with a wholly more empowered and suffocating record that feels continually relevant with its urban anxieties.
Lost then are the woozy tinklings and quiet, crisp drones of its predecessor, this time instead doubling down on the Techno that smattered Sublunar and giving it a rawer, more industrial glint alongside the Deep House and Dub developments. Glimmers of that more minimal progenitor do shine through in some of the quieter and more luxurious moments here, like the reverb bleariness of “Haze Shimmer” and its enchantingly creepy and mesmerising turnings, slowly unwinding with Subheim-esque churnings. Or perhaps in “Tap Tap Collapse” even more: although more active than anything on the debut it has a minimalistic House persona that turns over in interestingly easygoing but touchingly unsettled pitch bent croonings and sparse rhythms.
“Smoke Hood” finds itself in similar territory; one of the longer pieces of the record it hangs gracelessly in the mid-album in a crinkling sea of static, propelled onwards in thick and heady Techno chuggings, slow migrations of electronic cyclings that swirl with the darkling allure of tobacco smoke curlicues and all their harshness, the ultimate noir cliché. That ghostly smokiness is fully invoked in penultimate “Pulp” actually, finding power in Deep House grooves and echoic drum lines to carve a sensually primitive world that lingers over depravity in lulling temptation.
Even if the pace has kicked up a notch, atmosphere is still everything; album highlights “Partial” and “Crosstalk” provide the perfect sonic landscape to suck us into their uncomfortable world. Opener “Partial” shimmies in on warning tolls that migrate into skipping Techno beats that play out with a tasteful menace, an ominous joviality to their purposeful advance, assisted by consuming synth croons and rolling tribal percussion. There’s no civility in the city, only a kind of loose interconnectivity and self-purpose, Ikin proclaims. This loneliness even within the bustle is apparent in the nighttime wait of “Crosstalk” with its metronomic tickings watching the cars speed by in the dank dark, fear vignetting its peripheries in trustless angst.
Electronic anxiety continues through the late album, with “Auto Dialler” breaking the dense bass slaps with shimmering synth oscillations like chirping modems seeking a connection, cyclic tones buzzing out of the menacing confines of the enclosed world of circuits and microprocessors, an urban environment on a microscopic scale within every device, themselves fraught with busy pathways and bustling towers of capacitors and solenoids. Finalé “Closer Closer” is the peak of the album’s uncertainty and worry though, a precipitous piece that slowly unravels out of warbling indecision into carefully placed, slow build Techno evocations that fight their way to safety through textural crescendo before abrupt collapse and a quick slew into silent oblivion, a shuffle over an undisclosed ledge and a termination of fear.
Looking back it’s really nothing like Sublunar at all, with only a few stylistic hints here and there that suggest a genetic history between them. Modern Pressure feels far more grounded and a great deal more tethered to the real world than its predecessor, drawing upon personal experience rather than daydreamt imaginings to give it substance and corporeal presence, very much in the vein of contemporaries like Pye Corner Audio and Subheim and their distinctly dark glimmerings of urbanity. Not entirely hopeless and lost but certainly feels the weight of societal disconnection paradoxically inherent in our cities today.