Woman: S/W (Spectrum Spools)
was pleasantly surprised after hearing Second Woman’s latest album
(the first to my ears) that the project is an unlikely result of
collaborations between Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) and Turk
Dietrich (Belong). These two artists come from very different
projects and sensibilities, Eustis’s latest as TTA and Sons of
Magdalene splashing toes in slick electro-pop while Belong’s music
tends to reside in a haze of washed out reverb and dreamy shoegaze.
S/W’s sounds are a curveball from both of those respective angles,
feeling more akin to the sputtering, fidgety sequences of Mark Fell.
Even its track names, a sequential stack of “/”, “//”, “///”,
etc., sidestep conventions, each instrumental eschewing much in the
way of traditional song structure or hooks. But there is something
more accessible than the overtly alien transmissions that tend to
emit from Fell’s repertoire, and there is more to the arc of S/W’s
obfuscating track listing than initially meets the eye or ear. “///”
for instance continues to skitter with a foundation of elements that
feel like holdovers from the preceding tracks, while elements of more
obvious musicality creep into the fray.
It’s that push and pull
between severity and more emotive suggestion that makes S/W such a
captivating listen from start to finish, going down so much more
smoothly than some of their more severe contemporary counterparts.
Consider the lossy punctuation of “////” up against its
time-stretched, hazy drones; its disorienting swirl of sound evokes
some of the same otherworldliness of Tim Hecker’s recent output while
its palette and methods feel right at home on Spectrum Spools, a
label whose name is synonymous with synthesis experimentation.
“////” is even more accessible, the first track with a
veritable groove. That same skitter that characterizes the front end
of the album becomes secondary and supportive to a metered, regular
rhythm section. “////\/” works as an abstract epilogue, a
bookend that complements the opening track with a disarray of
staccato noises and leering, languid drones, channeling the often
beguiling vibe of Autechre at their most out there. All those
comparisons and namedrops aside, S/W brings plenty of its own
personality to the table and feels like a well crafted,
self-contained musical statement. It’s one of the more exciting
releases I’ve heard this year, and one of the finer efforts presented
by the usually reliable Spectrum Spools label — highly recommended.
Buy it: Bandcamp