Cam Deas is originally a guitarist, but he now specializes in modular synth and computer production. Stepping back from using the guitar as a tool for his compositional needs, Deas now focuses on the electronic, essentially expanding, finalising and realizing a dissonant dream, a rhythmic utopia, while moving beyond the limited range of acoustic sound. Time Exercisesmarks the return of label The Death Of Rave and features six studies in polymetric, mercurial and dissonant tunings. This sophomore, arriving after 2014’s String Studies, progresses into purely-electronic domains, meticulously detailed and painstakingly-designed mausoleums of electronic sound. The record is a complex sequence of precise rhythms and deranged, hard-hitting and possibly corrupted alien synths, a slippery tilt into the vertigo of dissonance and rhythmic displacement. Playful but mathematical, Time Exercises appears boundless in its possibilities. Synths transform into ugly mesh, staring with metal-cold eyes, but the tempo sweats like a hooker in church.
The disembodied syntax congeals to form a twisted-but-understandable language while a barrage of jerky rhythms and amputated synths conduct the messy concerto of warfare and annihilation. Severed from the roots of harmony and melody, the music feels as though it’s been cut off from God’s divine haven, an outcast leading an unhealthy rebellion. The music’s stony features crumple and morph as it turns to the dark side, giving off definite Stephen King vibes and night terrors, shapeshifting as it traverses moonlit swamps in long, lopsided strides.
An earthy bass echoes underground, passing through the grimy hive of subway tunnels, and lighter timbres clink against the carriages like dirtied fingernails tapping on its glass. Then, without warning, the exercise distorts, juddering along the rails as it reveals its interdimensional core, appearing as something that would turn the human mind to mush; it can’t comprehend or articulate what it’s seeing (or hearing), like a deranged ghost train designed by Pennywise and maxed out to inflict extreme levels of fright, permanently scarring and psychologically damaging the customers. The synth is sharper than a guillotine, the blade hanging at 12 o’clock.
Deas will be familiar with the guitar’s litany of mind-numbing exercises, some of which focus on monotonous repetition and dissonance, more about building technique and less about the music. The dissonance in Time Exercises is essential and deeply ingrained, but there’s never a dull moment. In music, dissonance is often shunned, likened to an ugly duckling, but it needn’t make us feel uncomfortable. You can’t have harmony without its opposite. Deas tackles it head-on, and the result is a rollercoaster of a ride.