CD, BitRiot Records, 2009
When this artist first appeared on my radar a while ago, it did appear to be something unusual. But then, when I thought about it, it’s not so much of an anomaly these days, perhaps. ‘Instrumental’ industrial acts seem to be ten-a-penny now – but not many of the current acts are looking into the past, or going beyond aiming for cheap dancefloor thrills. So where do Torrent Vaccine fit in?
Somewhere, perhaps, in the realms of Noise Unit, but without that act’s habit of stretching everything out for what seems like a couple of lifetimes. So then, truth be told: in theory Torrent Vaccine is like other artists, but in reality it’s standing in a field of one.
“Perfectly Normal” is something of a traditional industrial album intro track, though – a minute-and-half of found sounds, electronics and radio static, before opening out into opener proper “Exude”. Now this was the track I first heard on a compilation, and is impressive now as it was then. A mid-paced, nicely-programmed stomper of a track with all kinds of effects swirling around the beats, and something I would honestly expect to hear being used in a sci-fi film at some point in the future.
And as the short burblings of “Sequence” take us into “They Walk”, this idea is rammed home all the more clearly. It’s slow pace just brings to the surface a sense of lingering dread, of unmentionable things just around the corner, and as the electronics slowly build in the mid-section, this feeling becomes all the more urgent – whether the whoever “they” are win or not in the end is unknown, but as the track collapses into a storm of static, it’s tempting to suggest they do.
“Transcend” picks up the pace for a track that is a surprising contrast, although the use of choral samples continues the deeply forbidding atmosphere that appears to be the key thematic link on the entire album, but it’s the sudden introduction of a piano-led breakdown that is the real showstopper.
“DMF” gets better still, though, uptempo enough to work on dancefloors, perhaps, and with intriguing loop programming that keeps the track moving and take the place of vocals in a strange sort of way. That’s one of the things here – many of the tracks here are specifically designed to be instrumental, but I do wonder what would happen if a track like this was reworked with a guest vocal. Certainly it might change the atmosphere a little too much?
Talking of vocals, actually, “Pessimist Lo-Fi”, for the most part, is closer to dark ambient, and the odd vocal samples that appear are unsettling, being cut to shreds and dissolved into a storm of distortion.
The second half of the album doesn’t offer too much in the way of variation from this by now established theme, in my view, although there moments to savour: like the colossal drum sound that suddenly hoves into view on “Synthesis”, “Did You Hear A Sound”s ultra-complex composition, and “Gain Deflector” being almost as sparse as possible.
This is an impressive debut album. As noted before, it sounds very different to just about everything else (and just try comparing it to Torrent Vaccine’s labelmates on BitRiot), and this certainly makes for an ear-catching release. It’s not perfect, though, but a second album should help to smooth off those ragged bits (particularly the second half that sags a little) and is keenly awaited. Recommended.
— Adam Williams