This is an exception to my general rule that music sounds better when it’s slightly wrong. This sounds exactly as it is intended to be. It feels commissioned, considered, skilful. This isn’t normally regarded as a virtue in my world; I’m suspicious of technical brilliance and musicianship seems like a terrible blind alley, redolent of the kind of people who bring those small guitars to parties, ruining it for everyone. But I’m also utterly suspicious of my own entrenched opinions and Concretism has been winning me over for a couple of years now.For one thing, he’s actively co-opting Hauntology as a genre at a time when almost everyone else is running away from it (sometimes in almost comical fashion), when it’s become in my circle a kind of H-bomb. I like that Concretism is kicking on with it and trying to become an exemplar; if you’re gonna go for a trope, better make sure you’re at full steam. I like the fact that he’s pushing against the grain, deciding that’s something’s worth doing even when the moment has gone.
Everything about this release believes in the concept, in the idea of bringing back the dead, the lost futures: the austere monochrome sleeve, the brutalism (sound and vision), the fonts (my kid says “that font looks like it’s made of concrete” and he’s dead right). It sounds like Hauntology was always going to sound; a little old, a little new. None of this stuff could reasonably have sound-tracked the TV of the early ’70s (it’s too proficient for that, too clean) but because it’s so perfectly placed it sort of re-imagines that world as it could have been and then starts wandering/wondering about how we’d lost the plot.Now if that hints at a kind of meta-Hauntology going on which re-imagines how Hauntology might have sounded if it had reeled away from the spookiness and the earthy and headed more definitively towards the areas that, say Burial, was interested in. This pays more attention to Ballard’s ring roads than Machen’s hilltops. Town Planning works well because it pushes all the right buttons. Again, this could be seen as a criticism, but in this particular context it works because of that, almost at the level of emotional aggregation. There’s a vision here and it sweeps you along.
Interestingly, I think he hasn’t necessarily picked his best tracks for inclusion on this début (I prefer the wordier, looser tracks on Concretism’s earlier EPs) but he has picked the ones that fit together most effectively. They may have recorded at different times in different (head) spaces but they sound like they could’ve been recorded in one session. This, of course, is a virtue and a problem; on the one hand, played loud in a car with an empty world ahead, Town Planning could make the pylons sing; on the other there’s a certain relentlessness and a greyness of sound (a motorway/motorik hum) which makes individual tracks coalesce, makes them difficult to appreciate as individual entities. It’s only really the final track which separates itself out and stretches the paradigm and hints at what’s to come.