worriedaboutsatan: Blank Tape
This Is It Forever

Blank Tape, the third full-length from worriedaboutsatan partners Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale, impresses as an exceptionally well-crafted set of 21st-century electronic music. Though clubby cuts do appear among the ten tracks, the album plays more like a thoughtfully conceived and sequenced whole than as unrelated tracks. That it is so strong might be explained in part by the fact that Miller and Ragsdale retired their other project, the techno-focused Ghosting Season, earlier this year, a move that's enabled them to devote their creative energies more fully to worriedaboutsatan. Issued on Miller and Ragsdale's own This Is It Forever label, Blank Tape marks the group project's tenth anniversary in memorable manner.

As if designed to reinforce its identity as a complete listening album, Blank Tape opens with a one-minute intro, “A Way Out,” whose nature-based field recordings and repeating piano figure set the scene for “The Violent Sequence,” a dramatic set-piece that soundly solidifies worriedaboutsatan's rep as sophisticated moodcrafters. There's no shortage of club-styled oomph in the surging pulse powering the cut, but Miller and Ragsdale also artfully elevate the production with a plenitude of percussive texture and synthetic colour, and by the time the track's over, any inclination to see Blank Tape as a collection of club bangers has shifted to seeing it as a fully rounded electronica recording.

Two vocal cuts add variety, “This Restless Wing,” which pairs a smooth turn from Vincent Cavanagh (of the Liverpool prog-rock outfit Anathema) with a fleet-footed techno pulse and billowing synthesizer atmospherics, and “Lament,” which adds the sultry vocalizations of Bristolian electronica duo Face+Heel (Sinead McMillan and Luke Taylor) to a chilly, hypnotically swaying backdrop. Miller and Ragsdale aren't afraid to thread other genres into their productions when it feels right, the jungle flourishes that punctuate “Forward Into Night” a case in point, and by naming a track “Ravel” they show they aren't afraid to title a piece after one of the 20th century's greatest classical composers either.

Though each track offers a slightly different slant on the group identity, from brooding, gothic-tinged electronica (“The Tower and the Steward”) to beatless, organ-heavy ambient (“Nice to Meet You”), it's perhaps not insignificant that the duo decided to end the album with the widescreen techno of “From a Dead Man ... Part 2.” There's something to be said for venturing adventurously into other territories, but it's important to remember one's origins, too.

November 2016