CD, Ant-Zen / Tympanik Audio, 2009
Accompanied by an almost-plausible text explaining how it was funded by DARPA as a musical accompaniment to the state of the art in American military technology, this unsettling and rarely predictable album offers another glimpse into the paranoid imagination of the manically productive David Thrussell. If you’re used to Black Lung sounding rather like dadaist techno, some of the apparent influences here may come as a bit of a surprise. The early tracks boast a surprising number of major-key progressions, with a hint of Danny Elfman, healthy dollops of Kraftwerk and Add N To (X), and a lingering aftertaste of electro, but the pulsing synth lines are as bold and clear as ever, and the changes of pace and musical asides are delivered with Thrussell’s characteristic abruptness and disregard for conventions of song structure.
After a hectic, near-chaotic first half, track 6 takes a sudden plunge into deep space with “The Great Unconscious”, a glorious ambient number which sounds like it escaped from a late-night session in Carl Sagan’s observatory, and sets the tone for a much mellower and more reflective stretch. The timing is spot-on. The trademark jump-cut arrangements of the first five tracks are entertaining, for sure, but there’s only so much musical ADHD you can take before getting twitchy and yearning for something more fluid. But soon the restfulness soon evolves into hallucinatory claustrophobia, and closing number “The Neuroses of Nostalgia” brings in an anthemic lead line which reprises the stridency of the earlier tracks.
Perhaps what’s most refreshing about Black Lung is Thrussell’s lack of interest in following musical trends. He has always set his own agenda without any regard for what’s zeitgeisty in the wider world of electronica, and that, along with the jaw-dropping clarity of production, gives Black Lung a certain timelessness. Releases of ten years ago don’t sound remotely dated today, and I doubt “Full Spectrum Dominance” will prove different.
— Andrew Clegg