Review: Flanch - "Flanch"

Flanch - Flanch
(Darling Recordings 2016)

Scaling the lofty construction of recent post-internet epics like Arca's Mutant and Bjork's Vulnicura down to a more intimate, livable scale, Flanch's self-titled debut is a terse tape inhabited by brittle, misshapen synths, a Lynchan atmosphere and an unshakable pop sensibility that glows like a neon pink lava lamp in the furthest corner of its grim, digital hellscape. Though a starkly artificial record teeming with frighteningly foreign laptop-generated textures, Flanch feels oddly organic, like a Folkways compilation of field recordings brought back from an alternate reality - of campfire songs, hymns and the occasional 16 bars worth of CLIPPING-esque hip-hop penned by virtual reality pioneers. And perhaps that feeling doesn't stray too far from the truth: the record's lengthy list of credits suggests it's the product of a web-based collective rather than a single individual. This multitude of voices and instruments give Flanch the sonic properties of the Catholic liturgy - the lachrymose string arrangements of "Hal0" and the tinny piano tones that flood "Ble$$ings" could easily draw comparisons to the music of the Mass. There's even the semblance of a southern gospel service in the delicate call-and-response of "Pretty Girl". Blending the steeliness of synths and 808 drum patterns into the warm intimacy of worship music, Flanch is the chaotic soundtrack to a post-human communion of souls.

In that same vein, the project is a quiet, calculated antithesis to the frenetic discographies of artists like SOPHIE and A.G. Cook - though they too revel in digital abstraction, there's a sense of Bacchic ecstacy, a hyper-pop shimmer, that's completely missing from Flanch, and that's what makes it such a fascinating record. Though opening cut "Graace" borrows tropes and timbres from mainstream trap, its minimal construction and eerie sense of dissonance negates the genre's inherent sense of danceability and surfacey fun, replacing it with a stoic sense of beauty that resembles a cross between 80s goth supergroup This Mortal Coil and Kanye West's post-2010 material. Though forward-thinking and futuristic, Flanch is by no means afraid to look to the past and present for inspiration; the fruit of their efforts is an exciting of what's to sprout from the seeds of Death Grips and Oneohtrix Point Never.