It won't have gone unnoticed that, in terms of output, it's been a quiet few years for Suda. Hives marks his first full solo release since the sparse yet hectic dancefloor impact of Pleasure Flood / Abondance in 2014. Over the last two years, Hives has been painstakingly carved out of a strange and contradictory mindset.
Suda approaches music projects in the same way that some people approach video games. There is an objective, a challenge to be overcome that requires relentless self-improvement, self-adjustment and trial and error. At the same time, it is a hedonistic, serotonin-inducing escape. You are devoting your time to a task that relinquishes the drudgery of everyday routine and logic, with no typically productive 'goal' in sight. In short, Suda is an artist who is as likely to sit down and make a club track as he is to meticulously and pointlessly transcribe Golden Brown by The Stranglers note for MIDI note, or attempt to build his own version of the audio illusion known as the Shepard Tone.
However tempting it is after a period of noticeable artistic development, it would be wrong then to characterise this as Suda's coming of age EP, or 'Her Records growing up'. In a lot of ways, this is precisely the opposite, and all the more freakishly exciting for it.
The best way to approach the EP is to consider the following. In 2009, a scientific study carried out at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, showed that - aside from your ears - you hear with your skin. The researchers fired bursts of air through tubes, in a way that replicated the airflow from the human mouth created by plosives in the English language. The participants in the study were played recorded words. When accompanied by blasts of air on the neck, ankle or hand, the accuracy of the participants in interpreting these words increased by 20%. Listening to Hives is not intended to be a cerebral exercise, it seeks to elicit a response from your skin and body as much as your ears and mind.
Inner Monologue begins the EP with the sound of an otherworldly, machinic structure rising out of the ground, holding out the cruel promise of every sci-fi blockbuster: deeper self- understanding and someone out there to call a friend. You can't help but try to decipher meaning in the pained voice of the vocoder melody, to try to understand what it's telling you, but it keeps getting caught in a percussive vortex and whipped off out of earshot.
Idiopath offers club respite, a place to dance off the self-doubt and anxiety induced by the eerie opener. A floral portamento melody tangles its way around a viciously saturated kick
and a glowing, almost dubby bass. Cyberpunk pads gradually puncture the calm, until the track pulls up into a heavily processed triplet shakedown.
The Suda stamp flickers through Faced, but in a way you haven't quite heard it before. Rapid exhalations and lilting synths trade places with a chained and mutilated brass band. A cavernous and detailed choral theme ascends, but never quite reaches out and out theological euphoria.
In two-parter Hive / Mind, a harp player attempts to pluck at every mechanoreceptor in your body. The track slips between an ornate orchestral meditation and a metal-grinding crescendo until reaching frantic paroxysm. Eventually you're dragged backwards through an abstract intensification of every harp note in the previous sequence, whilst the opener's pained vocoder returns for a broken yet oddly soothing refrain.
Knotweed crashes the EP back down to earth to pick up and stretch the themes of Faced into a darker, more introspective club/headspace. At the level of sonic frequencies, the track is an enquiry into extremes, channelling equally clamorous energies into glimmering Kantilan keys at the high end and an overdriven rap anthem sub at the business end.
The last act, Inter, is preoccupied with the intensities of a single loop. Stretched, resampled, cut apart and then looped down into a millisecond-long buzz, gradually you're able to piece together the fragments of melody that Suda pulled from sources undisclosed to rebuild into conceptless expression. A sine wave throbs away at levels liable to rearrange your unconscious thought patterns if absorbed via a well calibrated speaker stack.
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