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Gum Takes Tooth – Mirrors Fold

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Gum Takes Tooth - Mirrors FoldRhythm is probably the earliest organizing factor of music, going back to when humanity were beating on rocks and picking up sticks. The rhythm defines what kind of music something is, whether it’s a romantic rockabilly ballad or a classical scherzo; or an aimless ambient drift in its absence. Rhythm is the pulse, the breath of life, the beating heart of a piece.

With the proliferation of digital recording and the prevalence of pre-recorded loops, there is a danger of losing millions of beats as rhythms are shoehorned into the confines of the rigid 4/4 grid favoured by recording software. Basically, heavily syncopated beats and odd time signatures are difficult to loop, layer, and programme. The danger is that loose, organic styles of music — like the blues, or even jazz and hip-hop — would not flourish today outside of a handful of adventurous outsiders. Digital recording, and electronic music in general, seems to lend itself to the Teutonic, technoid vision of the future put forward by Kraftwerk and the early Detroit technocracy, as steady 4/4 beats are easy to create, and then subdivide ad infinitum. There’s no problem with this, inherently, and hey!, I love techno more than most, but played out to its conclusion is the equivalent of an episode of the old Star Trek where everybody aboard space stations and star cruisers has pale skin and wears jumpsuits. This is a future that doesn’t allow for people of African descent, South American, Asiatic; anybody whose culture doesn’t subscribe to the 4/4 hegemony and Western tonality.

There’s more to life, kids. Not everything is easily quantifiable and predictable. Unimaginative producers run the risk of completely cutting themselves off from life and nature, and a whole range of human emotions.

Thankfully, we have bands like Gum Takes Tooth to represent for the shadow current, combining pagan vodou drumming with squalls of electronic noise and beastly industrial riffing.

Things start off relatively beatless, with “Mirrors Fold”; a wordless chorale that is bent and twisted to hell, like a kyrie on some alien planet, only to give way to a toppling ziggurat of thumping tom toms, beastly distorted bass and 8-bit dither that brings to mind the Congotronics of Konono No. 1. This sets the tone for the entire record, which fluctuates between rhythmic excursions and skewed noise. Alien, abstracted vocals ride over the procession, like the voice of some advanced race guiding us to the next stage of our evolution.

The track title “White Fear” reinforces something I was already thinking about this record. In the 1950s, an older generation reacted with horror to the beginning of rock’n’roll, afraid their precious white offspring would be corrupted by these African rhythms. Those hips were coming unloose, and their children would be off screwing in the forest and worshipping Satan before you knew it. If you go pretty much anywhere on a Friday night in the Western world will tell you that those African rhythms have won out. The grandchildren of those bigots and racists are out dancing and sweating and grinding to nyabinghi beats and thumb pianos, and the strict corsetry of Victorian prudery is going the way of the dodo.

Mirror Folds is no atavistic throwback, however, no fakeloric field recording, no cultural appropriation; it represents a union between technology and the primal urges. Complicated polyrhythms meet analogue synths and pre-meditated loops to become like a fertility ritual in hyperspace. Rhythmic subdivision gets so precise, it’s like the illusion of life. The old and the new, together, to create a mighty hybrid.

Just to be clear, you have heard things like Gum Takes Tooth before, just not in this particular configuration. Not to be reductive, but GTT is basically Lightning Bolt meets Cut Hands with a bit of Battles thrown in. That’s just the shorthand, however, just the map and not the terrain. Anyone that has played out any of those bands and needs some new ear-piphanies will be slaughtered by Mirror Folds, as will fans of industrial behemoths Godflesh. There’s the same beastly distorted bass and slamming, heavy rhythms. With Godflesh’s recent re-activation, I’d say Gum Takes Tooth are primed for a whole slew of new fans if this record falls into enough outstretched palms.

So for anyone who resists the whitewashing of the future, for anyone who loves both Carl Craig and Ghanain funeral drumming. For anyone that believes in the potential of technology, but still longs for the soul — here it is.

-J Simpson-

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