Rabit (Eric Burton) is from Texas, and though his music has generally maintained a loose dialogue with UK grime, it has also increasingly nurtured its own identity. His early work found an uneasy midpoint between violence and grace: On 2013's Sun Showers EP, misty synths crept on cat feet, surrounded by jabbing, staccato rhythms. This year's Baptizm EP, his first for Tri Angle, amped up both his tendencies in equal measure, but on Communion the truce has broken, and all hell breaks loose.
Communion is definitely not grime, even with the genre's telltale signifiers—bruised 808 kicks, broken-glass and gun-cock samples, lurching 140-BPM tempos. It's definitely not industrial, either, though it draws inspiration from the queasy frequencies of acts like Throbbing Gristle and Coil. It is violent music, and even though part of living in the 21st century entails being desensitized to all kinds of mediated awfulness, Communion feels genuinely unsettling: You emerge even after just a few minutes' worth of the album's unrelenting barrage of beats and palette of sampled shrapnel feeling dazed and punch-drunk. Needless to say, it is also thrilling, even when it leaves a sick pit in your stomach.
The sullen melodies are studiously minor key, and with the exception of the occasional desolate spoken-word fragment ("The flesh covers the bone"; "There aren't any people") there are no vocals, just yelps of distress. In "Fetal", the listener swings to and fro as though lashed to a pendulum above a riot, between machine-gun rhythms and gibbering voices and a whinnying horse. These juxtapositions offer their own kind of enjoyment, but he's not afraid to fight against pleasure, either: "Pandemic" is plodding and heavy-footed, and its climactic machine-gun volley is so intense that it is no fun, but you suspect that's the point.
It's not all brutal, exactly. The opening "Advent" features a sad synth melody reminiscent of the Cure's "A Forest", and "Artemis" toys with tentative vocal samples reminiscent of Laurie Anderson's "O Superman". "Burnerz" and "Black Gates" feel almost like traditional grime tunes, with their concussive kicks and synth stabs, and "Trapped in This Body" might be deconstructed drum'n'bass, with pitched-down sirens and beaten-up tech-step framed by radiophonic bleeps. These are welcome respites; if the album has a drawback, it's that the grim consistency of its palette and techniques leads many songs to blur together in your memory. Still, I'm guessing that is by design. Communion plays out like a kind of fever dream, a delirium of cold sweat and disturbing visions in which there are only brief moments of daylight before you're plunged back into the maelstrom once more.
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