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House of Black Lanterns – ‘Truth and Loss’ EP (Houndstooth)

Dylan Richards (formerly known as King Cannibal) debut release under his new House of Black Lanterns moniker, ‘Truth and Loss’ – on the Rob Booth (of Electronic Explorations fame) curated Fabric label Houndstooth – is a menacing, cyberpunk journey through the Hellraiser puzzle box into a world where Cenobites and other nasty creatures rule the roost in an imagined fantasy world akin to the town of Silent Hill.

Whereas with King Cannibal, Richards, proudly displayed his musical aggression and menace for all to see – especially on his 2009 ‘Let the Night Roar’ album – the House of Black Lanterns record is a more subtle, minimal and subdued affair that allows you to delve deeper into the composers subconscious. It is a cinematic work that conjures all kind of images in your mind but without being so explicit that it forces you to think in a certain way.

The EP kicks off with ‘Truth or Loss’ a tune whose main melodic and harmonic backdrop are sure to receive comparisons to Vangelis’ synth work in Blade Runner – and for good reason too, Richards has managed to recreate the type of lush, evocative soundscape that made the films soundtrack so timeless. However, instead of delivering a vision of the dystopian Los Angeles where the film was set, it portrays a much more horrific version of the future, an Event Horizon type version of the future. A pacey, half-step beat dominates proceedings with pitched percussive bleeps that bend towards the grave initially driving the music forward. Hi-hats appear half way through adding a footwork swagger. The whole thing is complimented by dry and brutal snare rolls that cut through the track like warm piss through snow.

The Fracture remix of ‘Truth and Loss’ that follows brings the darkness and jeopardy further to the fore by adding a more prominent, modulated bass to perch atop the powerful sub-bass and tech-step-era drum programming. These elements combined with the originals synth work and effects take the tracks intensity up a notch or two, a sure killer on the dancefloor.

‘Like A Warrior’, featuring Trinidadian vocalist Juakali, is a dark, atmospheric half-steppah. The vocals, whose deadpan, almost spoken word type of delivery sound similar to some of the work of Spaceape alongside Kode9 or Roger Robinson with King Midas Sound.

The EP closes off with a remix of Ghettozoid’s ‘Boy Toy’, a slow techno influenced jam, which features a massive, vintage reese b-line. That combined with the relentless 4×4 kick is reminiscent of Untold’s ‘Motion the Dance’ albeit not as buzzy or in your face. The track is topped off with organ type vamps and dub techno stabs that could have come out of the sound design book of experimental, electronic music composer Ian Boddy. The vocals, supplied by Sophie Rushton, have been pitched down from their original form to resemble a hermaphroditic vision of what humans might be like in the distant future.

As you can probably guess, I really like this EP. Its minimal nature allows the type of immersion that busier, fuller tracks can only dream of, as your brain has more time to focus on the underlying themes and intent rather than trying to follow the actual mechanics and elements of a tune. It is haunting, well-thought-out and brilliantly executed.

Al Kennedy

‘Truth and Loss’ EP is out now on vinyl and digital formats.