Huerco S – ‘Colonial Patterns’ (Software Records)

Spelling out his disengagement from the regretably named ‘Outsider House’ scene which he may have been falsely placed in to begin with, is ‘Colonial Patterns’, the debut full length from Brian Leeds aka. Huerco S. The Kansas native’s prior releases adopted a loose appropriation of Detroit and Chicago tropes that perhaps necessitated the scrambling of some desperate journalists for a suitable invented genre tag, but here, given nearly an hour in which to express himself, Leeds shakes off any close association to House music as you or I might know it. What he delivers instead is something infinitely more satisfying; a vision of a self-imagined world communicated in textures and sounds which continually fascinate and bewilder.

The album is framed by a conceptual focus on the pre-colonial Native American civilizations that once inhabited Leeds’ home state, although thankfully this is a context which never encroaches upon the immersive music on offer. Of more relevance arguably is Leeds’ noted admiration of Paolo Soleri, a man renowned for his fusion of architecture and ecology (or ‘Arcology’). This fusion informs tracks such as ‘Plucked From The Ground, Towards The Sun’, which pulses organically with the throb of a dormant behemoth, yet is grounded by the distant looping washes of metallic sound. Meanwhile whilst making homage to Soleri on ‘Monk Mounds (Arcology), Leeds fashions a dreamlike sound structure that fizzes with static and washed out ambient notes that sit just beneath the surface. The aforementioned track, like much of the album, exudes a sense of perpetuity that belies its three and a half minute running time, alluding to an expansiveness not traditionally associated with the unpolished sonic aesthetic on display.

A layer of constant tape deck esque hiss and white noise is one of the albums most prevalent motifs, but rather than sounding like a gimmicky attempt at lo-fi credibility it acts as the layer of dust atop our window into the albums many landscapes. Due to the album’s release on Oneohtrixpointnever’s Software Records, comparisons between Leeds and his label head are inevitable and warranted to a degree, but it is this opaque skin which seperates the former’s work from the often high definition textures common to the latter’s. On the superb ‘Prinzif’, which begins briefly with discordant exotic synth notes, the hiss serves as the distance between ourselves and the glorious sunset scene offered up by the soaring background swell. Leeds peels away much of the static for a moment, allowing the track to become a loose, warm jam, although crucially he retains the lens through which we experience it by having the track stumble in the fashion of a warped record. Similarly, closing track ‘Angel (Phase)’ opens in a purgatory of claustrophobic otherwordly sounds yet soon finds a gorgeous, pastoral flute like melody at its fore. ‘Skug (Commune)’ meanwhile recalls Actress in its stunted groove and clipped flourishes, with the enduring presence of a purring engine like bass sound and irregular crackling percussion providing the abstract rhythm. On several occasions Leeds allows the film of noise to dominate the melodies entirely, such as on ‘Chun-Kee Player’, where the remnants of ethereal choral sounds are just barely discernible beneath all encompassing shrouds of sound, or on ‘Canticoy’, which keeps Basic Channel style chords submerged throughout.

House isn’t entirely absent from ‘Colonial Patterns’, although given the distance inherent between this album’s rural, natural ambiance and the genre’s decidedly more urban roots, it is an abstract presence. The shimmering chords on ‘Iinzhiid’ lollop along at a cadence that renders it amongst the most mix-able tracks on the album, whilst ‘Ragtime USA (Warning)’ carries a bounce that’s arguably the closest thing to funk to be found on ‘Colonial Patterns’. The latter track’s deconstructionist groove bears similarities in approach to Theo Parrish’s notional takes on House, although comparisons between Leeds and Parrish stop there, given that House’s Black Music roots, a latent component to Parrish’s work, are entirely absent from Leeds’ vision. Rather, this is an album which although not willfully obscure, is refreshingly unencumbered by obligations to pay heed to any recognised genre conventions. Stylistic touches such as the omnipresent tape hiss or the dronier sections of the album may test the patience of some, but largely ‘Colonial Patterns’ offers a uniquely engrossing depiction of a world rich in bizarre and often beautiful detail.

‘Colonial Patterns’ is out now on Software Records

Christian Murphy