Bitcrush: Collapse

It's interesting that of all of the acts on Mike Cadoo's n5MD label, the heaviest is his own, Bitcrush. Don't get the wrong idea: certainly there are moments of delicacy and quietude, but one is always aware that not long after an episode of peaceful splendour, the music will erupt into a glorious thunderstorm. That's exactly what happens on Collapse in its opening track, “The Weight (of a Future Mutation)” when an intro of relative calm segues dramatically into a crushing series of molten guitar riffs, chanted vocals, and heavy drums. Anything but polite, the stabbing guitar sound Cadoo favours is sometimes psychedelic and often ferocious, a seething, low-pitched roar of volcanic force. With no credits listed, one assumes that Cadoo plays everything and thus comes away impressed at how convincing a simulation he's able to effect of a live trio. If the drumming is programmed, that too is impressive as it certainly comes across like live kit playing.

The album's fifty minutes are split between five tracks, with four in the ten-minute range. Cadoo uses the generous track times to advantage, however, by including within them multiple episodes and by exploiting the raw power of gradual buildups and decrescendos, and though vocals do occasionally surface, Collapse is a predominantly instrumental recording. “All at Once it Was Erased” instantiates the approach in opening with a veritable flood of strings before a hard-hitting guitar-and-drums combination takes over before decompressing once more for a less intense outro. Though darkness covers much of the material, sunlight seeps into the album most conspicuously during the synth-heavy intro to “...For a Void,” even if a towering wave of guitars and drums gradually renders other sounds inaudible. In its heavier moments, “To Collapse Into” has more in common with Metallica than Plaid, though Cadoo also works into its framework a strings-heavy section midway through the piece and at its conclusion. That heartfelt coda carries over uninterruptedly into the somewhat more restrained “To Collapse Out Of” where n5MD's “emotional moments in music” credo comes as strongly to the fore as it does elsewhere on this consistently powerful outing. Regardless of whatever digital association the Bitcrush name might have, it's clearly a project where the machines have definitely not taken over.

December 2012