I don’t know if you’ve noticed but 2016 has been a crazy year, stockpiling nightmarish news items as if they were Cold War-era plutonium, the fabric of reality slipping away as dramatically as if it had plunged down one of those death slides. Jesus, this was the year of President Donald Trump and David Bowie dying, Premier League Champions Leicester City and the word post-truth making the dictionary.
Maybe it’s just me, but everything has felt so frantic this year, like you can barely take a breath without some other chaotic event happening. Spring blurred into summer blurred into autumn blurred into winter and here I am at the end of November where I’ve not written anything all year and my novel still isn’t out and I haven’t seen a single episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ yet. Is it still on Netflix? I wouldn’t change this hyperreal, information-saturated era for any other, believe me, but sometimes it feels like a beatdown. It’s enough to make you want to go and hide in the mountains or something, but I bet you can still get Wifi up there these days.
While it probably wasn’t Adam Betts’ intention to make ‘Colossal Squid’ sound like the product of a weather-battered, cluttered mind being attacked by clusterbombs of information, it certainly seems as though it could have existed in no year less frenetic than 2016. His best-known project is Three Trapped Tigers (Colossal Squid has a similar name to ‘Kraken’, a track from this year’s TTT album ‘Silent Earthling’), where his muscular drumming penetrates the intricate entanglements of Tom Rogerson’s keyboards and Matt Calvert’s guitar. While he hardly takes a back seat in TTT, here it’s all drums and Ableton loops, recorded live in a way that made me think of VNV Nation triggering all their keyboard parts off an electronic drum kit (hey, the goth dies hard, sue me).
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Betts’ command of electronic percussive jams is on point. The multi-layered, percussive loops – the rotary panned gamelan leading into anxious ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ industrial of ‘FUB’ for example – are as nuanced and complex as you might expect from a drummer with nearly a decade in a math-rock band. What else does he have up his sleeve? ‘Aneek’, sounds like a mass malfunctioning in a music box factory (do they make music boxes in a factory? Let’s say they do. Humour me yeah?) with the live kit trying to hold shit together. ‘Hero Shit’ flips the switch by using its vocal samples as a rhythm track, although its lead synth is the most melodic thing on offer here.
There’s only 27 minutes of this over seven tracks: perhaps I should have expected he’d have his timing down, but it’s refreshing to see such a concise, focused work. Having said that, if his album reflects the state of the planet in 2016 then I hope next year’s effort is a laidback mellow jam.