A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Do you remember the first time you saw Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? When you first saw that CGI hair blowin’ in the wind, and it felt like the ground dropped out from beneath yr feet and you were shook with the sheer possibilities of what the future might hold?
We are entering an age where humans co-habitate peacefully with the machines, like those lovable robot maids dreamed up in the past. Where technology is employed in service of our humanity, and not the other way around.
Electronic music used to be guilty of the highest order of techno-consumerism, where only the brightest, shiniest gadget of the moment was allowed, and everything else was derided out of the club, like Carrie White, pre-conflagaration. Only the one or two trendiest trends were permissible. We were living in service to our machines. And the hybrids, the remix albums and early digital sampling, had all the subtlety of bad green screening, just horribly OFF, glitched out, frayed around the edges, not believable in any way, and not particularly attractive (although there have been plenty of artists who have attempted to make digital grit aesthetic, like the CD skipping experiments of Oval and Markus Popp).
The New Electric Gospel by Lord Numb, otherwise known as Alan Castallero, is truly both human AND technological. The electronic beats are still rigid and lockstep, chained to the grid, but Castallero and Co. (i’m not sure if there’s other humans playing on this release or not, although i know he has a live band) fill the spaces between with grace and light, with a deft touch and a keen ear. It is like watching a stunning computer animation of a ballerina dancing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or driving through a believable hologram of the Black Forest.
Lord Numb have vastly stepped up their game since we last saw them with their debut Robots Need Love Too. There were sublime moments on that missive, as well, and we share a lot of similar roots and aesthetics with Castallero: a love of Eno & Bowie, Kraftwerk and Devo, J. G. Ballard and crumbling tower blocks, cyberpunk and retro-futurism, guaranteed a special place in our heart. With that release, the cyborg assimilation was not yet complete. It still seemed like mid-’90s industrial rock guitars, in the style of Ministry or Nine Inch Nails, with digital post-production stitched on top. It has real moments, like the icy synthpunk of “Life Under Ice”, but it didn’t hang together as a whole.
With The New Electric Gospel the transformation is now complete, creating a fully immersive listening experience that will plunge you into the dark waters of Alan Castallero’s metaverse. It’s a world where robots fall in love, and appliances start revolutions. Full-on British surrealism meets the dancefloor, and has a real potential of infecting the mainstream with its plague of lovely madness.
Lord Numb’s production skills are getting mighty, The New Electronic Gospel will tenderly caress yr earlobes with breathy reverbs and hypnotic sine waves. The electronics (at least some of them) sound warm and analog, never sharp or jarring, which is pretty much the entire battle when it comes to recording digitally. It works to cast you under it’s spell, sets a mood and keeps you there. You can listen, over and over, and I highly recommend you do so.
As i mentioned in a review of the excellent Chicago motorik/psych band Cave’s new album, Threace, over at Freq. zine, after 50 years of living with drum machines, we are getting frighteningly precise at placing notes. All music breathes with a pulse, even if it’s a funky, jittery off-time-signature. The way you dance around the downbeats is what qualifies as soul, and you can get very detailed, indeed, like the way “The New Electric Gospel” breaks down from a romantic new wave number to pulsing, sparking analog devotion, that sounds like Johnny 5 singing during a meteor shower. Once you get a solid foundation down, you can start to experiment with different structures and textures, and actually drive music forward. You can actually experiment and explore.
I’m almost in awe of how much Alan Castallero has developed in the last 12 months. He’s been playing live shows all over Europe, and this music sounds entirely confident and self-assured. With The New Electric Gospel, Alan Castallero has taken a great step towards realizing his dream, a world where humans and machines can dwell together in harmony.
The New Electric Gospel is available as a pay what you like download from Bandcamp.