Clover Chain Reacts To: Tuxic – ‘Oblivion’

- Posted July 24th, 2018 by

Tuxic’s riveting concept album ‘Oblivion’ was released through Russian netlabel BleepLove in June 2018. Featuring some fantastic LSDj chops, low-fi drum’n’bass grooves, and hostile progressive metal, this music stood out to me from the moment I first heard it for its strong drive and dynamic execution. Making use of some really interesting pacing decisions alongside active melodies and uneven rhythms, the tight composition creates an intriguingly mechanical feel with incisive focus. This is balanced out nicely by the more free-spirited sound, full of surprises, where even the vocals display quite the stylistic range – composite instrumentation with a penchant for harsh qualities and sudden appearances. The most natural aspects of this album are presented through an artificial texture. The result is engaging, self-contained, expressive, abrasive, and GREAT.

It isn’t a coincidence that ‘Oblivion’ has this aggressive energy. Tuxic’s tunes have a distinct personality, but in addition to the music, for this release he has also shared a fascinating booklet, outlining a story, lyrics, notes… and this is where it gets hard to write about. Tuxic makes some really interesting connections. Tracks in ‘Oblivion’ become so much more when approached from the perspective of anxiety, or depression, or the pieces of a gritty sci-fi tale. But that’s context given by the artist himself, and I definitely encourage you to give it a read on your own, as I certainly can’t speak to his specific vision. What I can do, however, is listen. And considering these overall themes, a story touching on PTSD, war, hopelessness… it makes sense that every single part of ‘Oblivion’ conveys to me one cathartic truth.

Something is terribly wrong.

Screaming leads, echoing, singing a disjointed song. The chaotic melody and sharp sounds get more alarming, more complex, scraping the walls. By the time the angry guitars come in, you’ve already adjusted, completely forgetting about the odd rhythm. The intensity dissipates, but melody after melody grows in its wake, voices yelling over each other, as the drums get more impatient. You don’t even notice the strange offbeat arps, hiding smugly behind the intensity of everything else. They’ve been there for a solid minute, and it’s so easy to miss. Oblivious. Did you know this track’s opening and closing acts are exactly the same, section-by-section, but in reverse order? Right down to the eerie panning effect at the end of those long notes. Did you catch that in the beginning? It makes them surround you in a way nothing else does, up until that metallic middle section with just enough 4/4 so you let your guard down, try to breathe, before the gravity pulls you back in. Before you can brace yourself for the impact, all leading up to your beginning shown backwards, dropping out piece by piece, reminding you how disjointed it all seems once you strip away the noise.

Tuxic’s PDF describes part of this song saying, “I can hear my friends cry. I am crying constantly.” Can you hear the cries echo one another? Can you hear them hiding? For me, I only hear one, but it’s bouncing off of every wall, reverberating as the source of the cries carries on. It starts by looking in a mirror, and ends with that reversal, the mirror image, an echo. And something in the reflection is very, very wrong.

‘Relative’ starts by introducing another strange, disjointed song with more lines jumping at each other, more urgent syncopation, and more Game Boy gone wild. Yeah, sure, that’s what I’m calling that. There’s a difference this time, though: It’s later in the album, and we’re further into our journey, stronger, more confident. The electronica is a bit more smooth, as our moves are a bit more calculated, with this beautiful acoustic guitar that feels so deliberate and right. There’s still a lot to take in, but it’s not a hiding cry anymore. Instead, a deliciously anthemic guitar, signalling a newfound strength in numbers. Obliviousness was passive, now we’re active. Everything is active. After an actual build up, when the anger and intensity comes, we know what we’re up against. Still, some of our fight can be corrupted, as the natural elements clash with a grating force that overpowers all that stands beneath it (okay, real talk, I do wish I could hear that pulse part around 2:50 a bit better – suchhh a good countermelody – cool synth stuff though). No longer afraid, we can press on, ending this chapter on a proper climax. And that valiant high note gives us a full seven seconds to breathe. Nevertheless, that distortion and noise is still there, and this story isn’t over. We need something complete, something absolute.

It’s neat just how much ‘Absolute’ acts as a foil to ‘Relative’ – I almost feel on-the-nose pointing it out, but honestly, it works really well. ‘Relative’ goes like full DnB, with an eclectic groove, fast pacing, this robotic sonic quality. On the other hand, ‘Absolute’ has a bit of a rock/metal edge, and takes its time, spending nearly a minute before the percussion comes in, using real drums and even a mallet instrument, giving the whole thing this raw and earthy tone. ‘Absolute”s gritty vocals are also a nice contrast to ‘Relative”s clear chiptune leads and clean legato lines. These opposites operate on multiple levels too. It isn’t just a technical decision that leads to ‘Relative’ ending on a triuphant drop while ‘Absolute’ goes into a breakdown that falls apart and fades away. ‘Relative’ is a rallying call against depression (re: the story/lyric booklet), answered by a strong-willed group, culminating many voices all fighting for each other. Meanwhile, ‘Absolute’ is much more singular, introspective. Harrowing dreams and complicated guilt. The song written about insomnia is the only track on this release that ends with a straight-up fadeout, no final note or gimmick. The resolution is simple: fall asleep.

Maybe that’s why this one leans into the djent so much. If you can’t be alone with your own thoughts, drown them out. If you’re so long gone you can’t even take a nap, just blast the exhaustion into you. You’re tired, your mind is all over the place. The brass wasn’t enough. Add a marimba breakdown. Drink some water. It’s good for you. Thank you, scientist. Lay down. Go to sleep.

A voice says “Everything will be perfect, you’ll feel just fine.” But something is wrong. All you can hear is the stuttering glitches right in front of you. Dark piano rumbles in your skull, a peculiar song starts playing somewhere to your right. Or is it your left – it’s all in your head now? The pretty singing goes on, but you can barely hear it over all this clanging. Was that something about waking up? Are you sleeping? Eventually the voice splits into two, one echo falling behind the other. Disoriented, machines spiral around you. You hear growls, not natural ones, but something else, designed, automated, devouring all the sound as you cry out.

I knew as soon as I chose to write this article that I wanted to conclude it with ‘Stop’. This piece haunts me. Listening always gives me the sense that a piece is missing, like I’ve lost a sense of space. Nearly five minutes long, it never manages to overstay its welcome. But most of all, it’s bleak. Colorless. With so much sound and disruption, I can still only hear this song in grey, a vivid and imaginative grey. It’s mechanical and off-putting but in a way that’s so absorbing and real. It’s human. If it wasn’t then nothing would be wrong, and the voice asking to wake up would be loud and clear. But it’s not. I’m swept away, lost in the landscape, and I hear a voice crying out, trying to be heard above all the noise. That’s what embodies this album for me. Cries, words, echos, struggling to be heard, fighting to mean something. Battling hopelessness, knowing something is wrong, but having the power to sing anyway.

In other words: coping.

‘Oblivion’ covers a lot of ground, barren ground, troubles and fears, things that are wrong. But the end result is inspiring, helpful, hopeful – because there’s a common thread tying things together now: a way to cope. A way to be heard, and also a way to listen. Music, stories, writing – art has helped me cope for all my life. Tuxic’s ‘Oblivion’ is the first album I’ve listened through in a long time that not only expresses pain so clearly, but also seems deeply interested in exploring why it does. I love this release and I could not give a stronger recommendation.

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