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Modern-Day Overload: DUB-Russell’s Prank Poles

Boards Of Canada’s music has always reminded me of being out in a spacious pasture, the title of their 2000 EP In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country summing up their sound. Save for a few diversions into darker terrain (2002’s Geogaddi mostly), the duo’s songs felt detached from the modern world, obsessed with nature and childhood and a type of nostalgia Michael Bay can’t turn into a Hollywood blockbuster.

I’m not sure why I think of Boards Of Canada when I listen to DUB-Russell’s new Prank Poles release, but somehow it does. The Tokyo group isn’t interested in forests or the past, though – their head-rush approach to electronic music crams so many modern-day noises into each track that it almost seems ready to collapse in on itself, but somehow always remaining a good listen. What they do that Boards did so well is use the sounds of a specific time – the 70’s and youth for Boards, today and chaos for DUB – to make really captivating music. And Prank Poles certainly demands attention, the best release from DUB-Russell yet.

Like last year’s Grasp Echoes, Prank Poles often features a steely rush of noise that can at times feel like a test. “20-Megohms” serves as this album’s most abrasive cut, a disorienting blast of electronic noises crawling over one another for air. Yet despite the lack of breathing room, DUB-Russell manage to keep “20-Megohms” from breaking into a noisy mess, everything seeming very deliberate. “Gum And Shake” and “Choose Low” aren’t as hectic, but still hit hard in the gut. This stuff sorta resembles what’s happening within the INNIT or Brainfeeder circles, but those collectives aren’t as claustrophobic. DUB-Russell aren’t spacey or indebted to hip-hop, but rather reflect the pure overload of modern-day society.

Yet moments of slowed-down beauty creep in. “Talk To Go Around” takes the same electronic crush and shapes it into an affecting piece that, for a noisy duo like DUB-Russell, seems meditative. Closer “Hike Away” actually recalls Boards Of Canada in a more direct way – it actually features natural sounds and the down-tempo vibe of the song would fit in just fine on Music Has The Right To Children. After the modern pummeling preceding it, “Hike Away” feels like a soft escape, a peaceful ending to one of the year’s most absorbing recordings. Get it here.

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