Electronic Composer Sebastian Reynolds Surveys The Wake Of A Bomb Attack With “Cascade” Claustrophobic Leadoff Single From New Full-Length Canary

sebastian reynolds cascade

“Cascade” is a pulsing, claustrophobic paen to surviving a bomb attack.

“If you hear the bang, you’ve survived” intones a disembodied voice as forbidding drones ring against throbbing rhythms, leaving listeners unsure whether to dance or to duck. The video only hints at terrorism and random violence, which further accentuates the chilling quality of the subject matter.

Inspired by Reynolds’ love for bands such as Liars, Public Service Broadcasting and Radiohead, “Cascade” is an electrifying taste of what’s to come from his upcoming full-length Canary — taught, dystopic drones for a civilization in collapse marked by a compositional approach influenced by composers like Susumu Yokota, Luigi Nono, Olivier Messiaen, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Once again, Reynolds traverses modern classical composition and retro-futurist production, this time visiting upon the stillbirth of a child, the death of one’s parents, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind and body, the fragmentation of our collective mindscape, and the awakening of machine intelligence.

References to John F. Kennedy, Carl Jung, and Robert Monroe’s influential book Journeys Out of the Body pepper Reynolds’ meditations as samples from contemporary figures Sam Harris, Lex Friedman, and Navy SEAL Jocko Willink both guide and disorient the listener. As always, Reynolds is keen on preserving a sense of meaning in the mélange of programmed and organic sounds he’s come to be known for.

Reynolds has collaborated with German classical/expressionist musician/composers Anne Müller (Erased Tapes) and Alex Stolze (Bodi Bill) in their Solo Collective project, as well as Mike Bannard at The Aviary and others. He also continues to work on commissions for Neon Dance. Recent works with the company include Puzzle Creature, Prehension Blooms, the Thai-inspired Mahajanaka Dance Drama, and Manuals for Living and Dying. He is currently working on a film commission for Oxford University. His music has been widely supported across the BBC’s networks and beyond. He hails from Oxford, where he spent his formative years cutting his teeth in the UK cult outfits Braindead Collective and Keyboard Choir. (More details here.)

Born to a computer-engineer mom who worked for Research Machines, Sebastian Reynolds grew up “surrounded by dusty, strange machines that played games from cassettes.” Naturally, he was drawn to electronic production before he ever picked up a “real” instrument. But when he started kicking around in bands, his music acquired a living-breathing-sweating essence that it’s maintained over his 25-year. This is, after all, an artist who named one of his releases Nihilism Is Pointless…

His new album Canary, however, raises the bar with soul-stirring meditation on life, death and the afterlife in the wake of his mother’s passing, followed not long thereafter by the stillbirth of his son. Influenced by what he describes as the aural “dreamworld” created by Susumu Yokota, as well as the post-traumatic shell shock that galvanized the compositions of Luigi Nono, Olivier Messiaen, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Reynolds is especially adapt at blurring the line between mechanical and organic sound sources.

Reynolds hybridizes programmed and played sound sources not like some gleeful modern-day Frankenstein/Kurzweil who’s lost perspective on what it means to be alive, but as someone who sees electronic music as a fertile medium to express meaning. As a teenager growing up in Oxford, England during the ’90s, Reynolds was close to ground zero when Radiohead showed that they could conserve the humanity of their music, even as they plunged head-first into a kind of digital abyss.

Similarly, though Canary peers over the edge of the precipice we all find ourselves facing today — a bomb going off, the fragmentation of our collective mindscape, the awakening of machine intelligence, a child’s life cut-off at birth, and the quotidian reality of living the rest of one’s life without their parents — Reynolds always manages to locate the heartbeat in his electro-organic mélange of sounds.


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