As time goes by, it feels like genre labels at certain sonic intersections become more and more obtuse. Those who find themselves on the outer limits of Ambient where the music is at its most abstract seem to increasingly defy any sense of existing norms, blending styles in unpredictable and often almost indescribable ways. $uccessor finds itself firmly in this shady world of in-betweens, plumbing not only more modern Ambient and Drone aspects, but also areas of Plunderphonics, Burial-style Dubstep, New Age and Progressive Electronic along the way.
It’s lazy, perhaps even dismissive, to draw comparisons to Oneohtrix Point Never but his style is distinct and much inspiration has clearly been drawn here; opener “Descend Into View” reaches there immediately as its faint piano lurches into the recognisable blurriness of OPN’s characteristic MIDI chords, harder tones overcutting the tidal synth breaths of the backfield.
“Maxine” is the most overt case though as it hums with its MIDI chorals and clipped beat structures, its tones gauzy and luxuriant before it dips into particularly enchanting guitar pickings and beaming drone lines. Its predecessor “Fear In Reverse” also draws similarities to OPN in its latter half, its initial thrumming distortions and deep bass destruction making way for gurglings of energy, familiar staccato bursts of anxious thought before they daisy chain into oblivion.
The enigmatically titled “☯” sounds like it could have come straight out of one of Hecker’s earlier records like Mirages as it stalks us in faux-organ sustained tones, its cerebral evocations fraying at the edges with questioning distortion, certainties smudging as the devil on our shoulder whispers in our ear. Forethoughts can be found in precursory “Conversations With Shadows”, its 8 minute span permitting access to calming, meditative passages of eerie yet unthreatening sound, the slow tidal passages of drone making way for prismatic synth refractions that seem to do little to assuage our doubts.
Elsewhere, the beautifully effortless closer of “46:50” with Active Child finally brings some drone purity to proceedings, its world one of light and luxury, unfolding like a sustained sigh, soft vocal coos serenading the glowing synths at the record’s conclusion. It can’t hide the sense of a dystopian reality simmering just below the surface though; the duality that each track seems to bring continues right till the end as we get this inkling of darkness barely curtained below the drones and hastening piano strokes, the record quickening slightly to prevent its escape before the close.
The remaining pieces are harder to pin down but no less impactful; sophomore piece “Instinct” starts harshly in jarring foreign spoken word and throbbing, strobing bass, first impressions threatening to overwhelm before nature kicks in and organic synth arpeggiations carry us away with almost playful, autonomic abandon. It’s almost like the conscious mind takes back over and fear kicks in at its conclusion, smeared percussion reduced to a haze of noise drowning the instinctual out. Penultimate “Integra” meanwhile single-handedly takes over the New Age component of the entire record, its fluted repetitions and accompanying watery rushings have a practically tribal air to them, the drones sympathetic and even mournful in their reverie here.
There’s a continual struggle here, every track filled with dichotomies of self and although one could be forgiven for thinking that many of the tracks lack a sense of cohesion there is a strange sense of sonic distinctness that connects them, each piece highlighting a distinct set of warring personalities but ultimately joined by the commonly shared brain. Make no mistake this is a strange record but it remains well worth listening to.