Amnesia Scanner – AS TRUTH (2017)



Amnesia Scanner don’t do interviews. When they perform, they’re little more than silhouettes, and their releases arrive with nothing more than a tracklisting. Approaching anonymity in electronic music isn’t exactly new, of course: Burial didn’t reveal his identity until after releasing the genre-defining Untrue; The Prodigy used a fake name to test new material; Aphex Twin still uses different aliases to delineate styles and DJs anonymously from time to time to escape the pressures that come with a headlining set. But as the practice spread into more popular music, cases like Samuel Long (SOPHIE), Aaron Jerome (SBTRKT), and Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) began to emerge masks have become more a code for forums to crack than a curtain for the wizard to operate behind.

And if anonymity is temporary in the Information Age, the next-best option may be to hide one’s identity by proving nothing beyond whatever the internet can dig up. Interviewing is normally good press it humanizes an artist and generates buzz for upcoming releases. But if an artist wants to shape their narrative using silence as an instrument, that just doesn’t make sense. And Amnesia Scanner’s music refutes the idea, too: their industrial-din clatter doesn’t feel like it’s constructed from normal tonal language; it’s an alien interpretation of contemporary electronic sounds, a fractured 22nd-century music whose sound serves as its own envelope-pusher no words required.

The sound of AS TRUTH is one of raw energy filtered through dying machinery. It’s engines revving up and horror-show skitters and cutting synths; it’s screams and gurgling vocal loops and drums stretched and compressed within an inch of their life. While none of this is new to the duo much of the release iterates upon the palette that populated much of their first EP, the futuristic-bass abstract-dystopian radio-play AS ANGELS RIG HOOK it remains as riveting and visceral as ever. This energy is immediately palpable: right out the gate, an orchestra of roaring engines and pattering drums gives way to chopped-up, disembodied vocals, room-filling buzzsaw synths, and nothing else at all.

In less adept hands, that could cause tonal whiplash, but instead, it reads like a natural outgrowth and showcases the organic nature that energizes TRUTH. The release continues to shift between disquiet and cacophony, making for a thrilling listen whose ebb and flow makes it difficult to check out for too long. Even its weakest parts, like the jarring synth runs early on, are rendered secondary to their role in the release’s pulse. The best moments, however, are the parts that fuse the two extremes. “AS BREITH,” which runs on little more than gunshot drums and processed war-chant vocals, manages to suck the air out of the room. Elsewhere, the mixtape uses wordless voices, decaying electronics, and harpsichords to move from forlorn stillness to overpowering clamor and back again, ending with a mix of piercing start-stop drums, guttural basslines, plucked synth-strings, and silence. It’s a tantalizing back-and-forth, one where no side dominates and all are essential.

TRUTH is ostensibly broken up into seven tracks, but it’s only (officially) available as one fifteen-minute audio file; two of its tracks (“AS TRUTH” and “AS BRIETH”) were released prior but the rest is entirely new material. Many of the new sounds are quieter and more subdued than on previous works: here, the computerized voices and sparrows and free-form poetry of HOOK are replaced with much less (obviously) conceptual, but still anxious, calm. It’s worth reiterating that  “calm” does not always mean “comfortable”: the lightest moments on TRUTH use excellent sonics to stand on their own rather than serving only as contorted buildups towards heavier ones, and they provide some of the most engaging moments on the release through goosebumps rather than knuckle-punches deep bass buzzes, coughing and sputtering machines, vocals echoing into the void. Maybe that’s why it was released as one file: it flows well throughout, and it’s clearly meant to be taken as a piece; the gut-punches don’t hit nearly as well without a wind-up.

When those blows land, though, they can leave you senseless, disoriented, exhausted. Amnesia Scanner don’t give the listener much of a roadmap to navigate all of these twists and turns, and listening to it can feel like navigating an alien landscape alone fascination, horror, and confusion included. With TRUTH, they’ve have planted their flag even deeper: visceral uncertainty and excited bewilderment rule their pieces, and this is further proof. Regardless of where they go robotic spoken-word radio plays, shuddering gasps of machinery, chopped-up post-human dancefloor-shatterers they continue to speak in a language only they fully understand. These fifteen minutes are no exception, and it’s a transmission well worth attempting to decode.

Author: Michael

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