Son Raw once saw a scarecrow raving in a field.
Outside of niche publications, music criticism is ill equipped to deal with an album like Logos’ Imperial Flood. It’s not that the record’s 34 minutes of music feels completely foreign — anyone with an interest in film has likely heard a score in the same ballpark as this frigid work of sound design. But this sort of abstraction demands outside context to approach, and Imperial Flood offers little. Reviews explore the music scenes that generate such works, the composer’s background and identity, or a film the music is attached to for clues and paths to interpretation, all approaches Imperial Flood deftly dodges. All the listener is given is a 68 word paragraph as part of the album’s press release/Bandcamp page, citing Eastern England’s “agrarian topography,” speculative literature, and a few 90s dance music institutions as influences.
That’s not much to hang an album on, and so contemplating Imperial Flood through this narrow list of topics feels like a distraction, particularly given that science-fiction is so common a trope for electronic music. Likewise, while it’s possible to hear echoes of dub techno and jungle boiled down to a fine concentrate in places, Imperial Flood feels defiantly uninterested in dance music conventions, particularly as compared to Logos’ previous album, 2013’s Cold Mission, which dissected grime’s sonic signifiers long before “deconstructed” club music became a shorthand for appropriation, gentrification and piss poor beats. It’s this idea of dissection, of taking a sound and slowly unspooling it through intricate cuts and folds that provides our first, best way to approach Imperial Flood. Call it deconstructed club that never bothers with the club or cliché deconstruction.
For the less generously inclined, that means Imperial Flood can occasionally sound like the world’s gnarliest sound design demo, but approaching it with an open mind in the right circumstances reveals its emotional weight. For the most part, the album does away with any percussive heft, instead focusing on particular sonic elements, allowing them unspool, slowly morph, and create tension. Whether or not this grabs you, depends on just how open you are to “soundtracks for imaginary films.” Though I’m thousands of miles away from the English countryside that supposedly inspired it, playing the album while walking around on a grey, overcast day imbued my errands with all the drama and paranoia of a psychological horror classic. Its mostly ambient exploration of acid squiggles, reverb and ominous synths also make it a strong candidate for long drives and late nights. Put bluntly, it’s some spooky shit.
The one obvious exception to this rule, and Imperial Flood’s centerpiece, is “Zoned In,” Logos’ latest collaboration with longtime production partner and Different Circles label co-owner Mumdance. An utterly chaotic 155BPM banger that bridges the ‘ardest acid hardcore to the most intricate IDM sound design, it’s a bold choice, a slap to the face and a sudden release all at once. It sticks out from the rest of Imperial Flood like a sore thumb, while simultaneously providing a reference point for all of its more esoteric detours, showing what Logos’ drawn out, near infinite sound design can do if coiled into spring and released on an unsuspecting dance floor.
Given the duo’s classics like “In Reverse,” “Wut it Do,” and “Proto,” it’s no small compliment to state that this may be their best track yet, but its manic energy tops not only their best music, but stands tall next to classics by fellow iconic UK production teams like Ed Rush & Optical or Mala & Coki. Imperial Flood isn’t always an easy listen, but Zoned In will undoubtedly set many an adventurous dance floor on fire, while stoking demands for a sequel to Mumdance & Logos’ 2015 full length collaboration.
Imperial Flood is ultimately no more of a niche record than Cold Mission, but it explores an entirely different niche, one not beholden to the experimental edge of dance music, instead investigating the spikier side of purely experimental music. Landing somewhere in between the work of Lee Gamble and the late Johan Johanson, it will be of great interest for those looking to explore an interior world of dread and darkness. And for everyone else, well “Zoned In” probably sounds mad on an E or two.