Oto Hiax are somewhat of an electronic super-duo. Featuring Mark Clifford of Seefeel fame and Scott Douglas Gordon, also known by his solo project pseudonym of Loops Haunt, this new self-titled record from the pair is the follow-up to their One EP, and their first full-length project. One featured a lot of interesting and diverse ideas. The soundscapes on this EP ranged from subtle to abrasive and from minimalist to complex, with the varying sections flowing in and out of one another fluidly, creating some ear-pricking atmospheres and noises that showed promise for a duo comprised of such competent electronic musicians. I expected Oto Hiax’s first album to feature much of the same approaches to creating such interesting experimental electronic soundscapes and this does indeed seem to be the case, although to a much more diverse and grandiose degree. The abrasive moments on this record are far more jarring than on One, but they also feature some subtle textures that eventually blend into melodious and bright bridge sections. The sounds on Oto Hiax are incredibly varied, with some of the more biting passages featuring diverse atmospheres ranging from ominous to oddly soothing. On this debut, Clifford and Gordon display an astute awareness of the varied ways of manipulating electronics to create some of the most wonderful sounds I have heard on an experimental electronic album for quite some time.
Oto Hiax opens up with the vibrant and shining Insh. The subtle melodies that flutter over this beautiful audio suite are colourful and feel like a fitting opener for the record. Some slightly harsher sounding distorted noises bubble below the surface later on in the track, demonstrating right from the onset not just the diversity on this album, but the meeting of very different moods in one piece, making for a very intriguing record. Insh, due to its short length and simple structure, feels like an appropriate introduction to the record, especially as it introduces some of the musical and stylistic themes that recur across the full runtime of the album. For instance, the next track, Flist, opens with some similar flickering electronics, but takes quite a different turn as the more abrasive and almost industrial-sounding rhythmic embellishments kick in. This track’s most prominent feature is the spacey synths that move in and out of melody and disharmony, at some times sounding incredibly bright and beautiful, whilst at others having a much more rough hue to them. Towards the end of the cut, a sudden storm of new noises work their way into the mix, most notably some ghostly howls that darken the mood considerably before the noises crumble away in the piece’s closing moments.
There are a handful of tracks on here that stand out for their consistent bare-faced abrasiveness. Hak is a real highlight in the tracklisting due to the incredibly harsh but textured soundscape it creates. The repetitive and sometimes disorientating electronics that provide the foundation for this track establish the rough undercurrent throughout the piece’s runtime, with even the angelic and harmonious drones that drift around not detracting from the track’s harsh sound. Eventually, these drones are swallowed up by a sudden crescendo from the rough electronics, but they do begin to fight their way back into the mix, although this time sounding less pretty and more like a whirring clamour. The progression of this piece keeps the listener hooked until its very last murmurs fade away after the chaos. Dhull, although one of the shortest tracks on here at under two minutes in length, is an interesting cut, especially as a result of the slight industrial influence that shines through again. The buzzing drone on this cut is embellished with some harsh bangs and clangs that sound like they belong on a demolition site, even with some hammering noises that sound like a building being destroyed. A bright and uplifting melody appears on the backend of this track that once again shows how Oto Hiax are very capable of meeting many worlds of electronic music in one single piece, even if it’s only a minute and 46 seconds long. Eses Mitre, the longest track on Oto Hiax, is also one of the most discordant and disorientating, but in a highly appealing manner. The clashing electronics all over this thing are fascinating, with an impressive diversity of noises appearing just on this one track. There are spacey sounds, crashing cadences, fluttering chimes, swelling drones and much more, all of which come together in one of the most profound and thrilling electronic experiences I have heard in quite a while.
Oto Hiax’s debut record is an incredible first full-length feat from the duo, and they flex their compositional muscles on practically every track on here, with no one piece standing out as being a dud in the tracklisting. The fantastic variety of sounds on Oto Hiax makes for the most sonically-interesting release I have heard thus far this year, and the way in which the pair bring together so many different ideas in electronic music in some beautiful and dissonant fashions is truly impressive and certainly a testament to their experience in the genre. What’s more, the way in which so many of these pieces flow in and out of so many different audio planes keeps the record feeling constantly fresh and gripping. The ability of Oto Hiax to sculpt sounds so well on their debut foretells of many more good ideas being produced by the duo.
The Vinyl Verdict: 8/10