Ecstatic Vision’s new album For the Masses leaves you with a headache after listing. Like the type that feels like your skull is now a size too small, and the tension pools at the front of the after an aggressive, emotional experience that leaves you feeble and drenched. I’m not even sure if I could call it music; more an outright assault to cleanse the psyche.
Take the opening track, ‘Sage Wisdom’. I wouldn’t even call it a song — more an electro base vignette. Rhythm and tempo don’t build with it. Not in the traditional way; an ever-growing Theremin mixed with an up-tempo jazz drumming that transforms into white noise, and snatched lyrics about “brothers and sisters”.
After a while, you understand it’s not supposed to be music. It’s like a musical kōan, clear the mind of everything else too so you can enjoy the rest of the album, starting with ‘Shut up and Drive’. Mixing hard rock guitar with electro distortions arrangement, it blends the harmonics with an allegro rhythm. Lyrics become lost and just part of the arrangement as it kicks up a gear, building to the climax before rapidly, and gently, taking you down again into ‘Yuppie sacrifice’.
Where ‘Drive’ was blues meets techno, ‘Yuppie’ is a broke, cyberpunk nightmare tune, a soundtrack to a ruined cityscape. It’s angry; drums replace guitar as the arrangement base while the guitars take on a chanting like sound.
And This is the first three tracks on the LP. You see what I mean about aggressive, emotional experience.
It might be tempting to dismiss For the Masses as little more than an appeal to sound distortion. I’ve called out other albums for that, why not this one? Well, where different artists turned up the noise to hide the lack of style, Ecstatic Vision turn up the noise to create their style. The actual lyrics, for example, become drowned out by the electric pulse but the emotion to them become part of the overall arrangement. An arrangement that is all together tribal. Despite the techno harmonies, the whole LP has a primitive feel to its rhythm; a heated scared feel that first quickens you and then drains you of your strength.
The LP stops being an album as such and instead becomes a single track. Not that they blur into one another, more that they become stages to one long song. A concept album where the concept is trying to understand the meaning, like a musical kōan.
Part of it comes from the genre-blending. It isn’t Rock or EBM; it isn’t even Dark Electro or Aggrotech or Industrial. It’s something else altogether making it one of the freshest sounding albums of the year.