A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Sounds From Underground: NCHX – B-O-M album review (Plastic Horse)

A compendium of underground electronics, Nochexxx’s fifth LP is a tube journey through acid, techno, electroacoustics, radiophonics, IDM, and bass music.

Nochexxx BOM album review

B-O-M opens with the sound of a tube station, a deep rolling riddim, bursting forth into a tensile, locked-groove electro beat. Strange shimmering echoes creep and peek in around the peripheries, bubbles and neon shadows. It’s like a tube journey through the Tillinghast cosmos, as well as a guided tour through 50 years of electronic obscurities and underground sounds.

For much of electronic music’s history, there’s been a false dichotomy at work – underground/mainstream, raw/polished. These points rarely met, each existing in their own metaverse. You were unlikely to hear a set of raw, experimental hardware explorations in the mainroom on a Saturday night. You weren’t likely to see a festival-sized crowd getting down to stripped-down acid bangers or electro grooves.

On the flipside, you were equally as unlikely to hear an album of lo-fi electronics that was polished and poised, mixed to perfection, with an emphasis on storytelling and a grounding in musicality.

Likewise, electronic genres often operated in their own hermetically sealed universe. Drum ‘n bass existed in its own 174 BPM galaxy of sparring cyborg samurai, while techno bangs along like some ceaseless assembly line, spilling motherboards into the infinite expanse of the void. House music clipped along in its own elegant twilight of polished white sneakers and pop-up boutiques, while dubstep spits and growls and prepares for the apocalypse.

When electronic music gets too closed off, however, it becomes too safe, too predictable. It also becomes a kind of echo chamber, closing people off from one another instead of realizing the utopian melting pot potential that is possible on the dancefloor.

On B-O-M, Nochexxx breaks through these invisible boundaries and ineffable borders, erasing harsh divisions for an album of pure electronic exploration and sonic adventure. It’s heavy with Nochexxx’s signature handmade electronics, beats seemingly hand-sculpted and individually triggered, while acid arpeggios follow along like some neon drop shadow.

B-O-M functions more like a journey than any sort of collection of singles. It’s a tube ride through nearly every shade and style of electronic music you can think of, often in the same track. Take the shifting riddims of “Entercol,” like a drumline run through a battery of filters, giving way to a gothic, ghostly orchestra, emerging from thin air. This is like witnessing some of Jlin’s orchestral beat mangling as a rhythmic seance in Disney‘s Haunted Mansion, only to have some burbling acid synths emerge, like some noxious fumes, reminding us this is just one stop, not the final destination.

Or take the near-exotica of “Seventh Gun Territory,” starting off with a solid minute of galloping rhythms and klaxon alarm, before a percussive ritual swims into focus, somewhere between an Indian tabla meditation and a Polynesian drum ritual. The riddims give way to ecstatic cries and orgiastic moans, suggesting a soundtrack for a pan-cultural Tantric ritual.

These strange scenes are just an example of some of the joys that B-O-M has to offer – alien and exotic visions the likes of which you’ve never dreamed of. That’s what electronic music is capable of, untethered and unrestrained by physical reality. It’s a mistake to limit sounds and songs to recreations of acoustic music, when you can sculpt whole new sonic galaxies out of thin air, made of whirling particles and grinding beats, unearthly timbres and textures conjuring alien atmospheres that glow in phosphorescent half-light.

B-O-M, and Nochexxx’ s music in general, is a continuation of the more experimental sounds of hand-triggered electronic music of the 21st Century – the frenetic beats of juke/footwork as captured on the Bangs and Works compilations; the fidgety basslines of booty bass; the amorphous, spectral drum ‘n bass deconstructions of Ekoplekz; Howlround and the malingering spectre of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

The fact that B-O-M is an exploration, a journey, and an appreciation of non-commercial, handmade electronic sounds is not the striking part, however. It’s how well it’s executed. Until the last 10 years, it was rare to hear such experimental, exploratory music sound so polished and well-executed. It really lets you fall under Nochexxx’s spell, strap in, and enjoy the ride.

B-O-M is out now on Plastic Horse





Plastic Horse

ig: @plastic_horse


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