Canadian producer and audio-visual artist T. Gowdy is not one to tweak or tinker. His way is to probe forensically, to submerge deeper into the possibilities of synthesis and synthesised, to think it through. Such intense application infused his lauded ‘Therapy with Colour’ debut for Constellation with a hypnotic resonance which uncurled as you listened. So when whispers arose about his new album Miracles (via Constellation from 3rd June) and it being sourced from an unfinished surveillance film project, you could be certain that this was not going to be some hasty remake or gentle rework. Dusting up old tapes to make them fit for purpose is too far removed from T. Gowdy’s oeuvre.
What ‘Miracles’ captures is not so much a re-assemblage of previous ideas more a re-incarnation. Gowdy has revealed that the process of creating this music focused on removal rather than adding on, stripping back the components of the previously shelved work. Left with these raw materials the new experiments could begin. Tantalisingly Gowdy ups the tension with opener ‘350J’ which acts as a scene setter for the main narrative. A brief but ominous throbbing prologue that granulates, distorts then sucks suddenly into the ether, it’s a stark indication that his gaze on this new record may have shifted from ethereal escapes to more urbanised vistas.
As title track ‘Miracles’ hurtles into ear-space, all energy and momentum, that suggestion receives categorical confirmation. The cut is almost breathless before it begins, a flighty flute-pure synth pattern zipping around rising rhythmic urgency, all brightness set against pulsating power. Here Gowdy shows the deftness of his touch, dialling down the relentless drive with a faux-rave, sub-bass dropout before inevitably the pace picks up again. Still, although it’s clear that techno-informed repetition underpins this title track, there’s also an intense commitment to subtle re-shaping and rebalancing. As with his previous recordings T. Gowdy is aiming for engagement on more than one level.
The motorised velocity of ‘Vidisions’ reveals similar kinetic motivation mingling with mind stretching invention. Pounding almost Balearically in the 120/140 bpm zone with the skipping twang of a reverberating electro-snare pattern close by, the tune maintains the pulse while making you look over your shoulder. Meticulous glitches and stitches, stealthy stutters and stops, plus a ghosting vocal aura, all bring a real human presence to the digitised surroundings.
That personalisation is maintained over the whole of ‘Miracles’ giving the record a distinct identity shaped by Gowdy’s invigorating mix of rigour and rule breaking. The cryptically titled ‘Déneigeuse’ (which translates to ‘snow-plough’) may speed from insistent rhythm to mid-point rest and then return but that’s the only convention here. The counterpoint between the beats, one hollow and frenetic, the other slow and stalking, is an inspired meld of semaphoring Batucada meets dark wave mystery. ‘U4A’ takes a similar toned percussive starting point, swerves into impeccable jazz-timed keyboard staccato before drowning itself in a rising swell of dense drones and stranded vocal.
The pursuit of immersion is often a recurrent driver in electronic soundscapes but on ‘Miracles’ T. Gowdy seems to be navigating his own path to that nirvana, tempo informed but necessarily illusive. It’s probably on ‘Clipse’ that these principles get most exhaustingly tested. Built on a looped conversation between a sonar phrase and a brisk repetitive code signal, the minimal, deceptive twists and taps peep through with Basinski-like finesse. Deceptively enthralling or deliberately numbing, whatever the intention the result is compulsive.
There has been a clutch of strong releases from the electronic/experimental enclave over the past few weeks (e.g. Quayola/Seta, Earthen Sea, JOYFULTALK) but the meticulous and mindful ‘Miracles’ will still doubtless distinguish itself. Even in the album’s more ambient pauses of ‘Transcend l’ and ‘Transcend ll’ Gowdy manages to realise the potential to transport, drifting on shimmering melodics, swaying to gamelan sequences or reeling from sudden jabs of math rock punch. Overall it’s a record of economy and scale, familiarity and surprise which is both sustainable and sustaining, enlivening, therapeutic and ultimately good for the soul.
Get your copy of ‘Miracles’ by T. Gowdy from your local record store or direct from: https://tgowdy.bandcamp.com/album/miracles