Leyland Kirby – The Death of Rave (A Partial Flashback) (History Always Favours The Winners – 2014)

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In 2006, Leyland Kirby under his rather prolific V/Vm alias created a titanic 9 hour release entitled The Death of Rave (with another 9 or so of bonus material), filled with Dark Ambient and noisy Drone creations built from twisted relics of rave tunes and beats. To be clear I’ve not listened to The Death of Rave, since its timespan is just beyond ridiculous, but Kirby’s habit of manipulating music for his own purposes piqued my interest in this case and luckily he’s returned to create something wholly more digestible, taking what I can only assume are some of the better or more meaningful moments from the original and putting them into this much more bitesized release.

That being said, simply because he’s taken some of what I can only assume to be the more personally meaningful moments based on the track titles doesn’t necessarily mean that the music itself is entirely cohesive; many of them share little with one another except that they are populated with an overbearing wall of distressed noise that seems want to suppress any melodic content below, not that there is a great deal of it. It’s hard to believe that any of the pieces presented here originated in a club and rave environment; opener “Monroes Stockport” is a slowly creeping mass of expanding drone sequences and listless glitch awash in a sea of reverb, no trace of some bombastic, drug fuelled sound in sight. It shares little sonically with any of its album companions however, carving its own niche just like the rest, which is, I suppose, admirable. Perhaps “Smithy & Dave the Rave” is comparable, with its loud walls of expressive noise mirroring some of those earlier drones, the difference being that the curtains part to peek at a beautiful and delicate synth melody hidden within, its fondness and elegiac tones quickly stifled but never entirely quelled as the piece decays into a sad and shimmery silence.

There are some shards of perhaps the original, inspired melodies captured in a few tracks though; “Marple Libradome ’91” is the best example of this as it propels itself on a bed of deep sub-bass and distant, faded, throbbing basslines, hidden beneath a carefully manipulated synth melody smeared into oblivion and barely detectable through the drone fuzz that it’s become, barely clinging onto life. There’s a pace and urgency to this one that is perhaps lacking in many of the others, a sense that time is maybe running out before it’s sonic appeal is lost forever. The tribal and electro-mechanical abominations that “Big Eddies Van – Bowlers Car Park” evoke show similar tendencies towards some original work; it’s an oppressive piece that I really don’t enjoy but one can’t deny that it has fascinatingly rhythmic shakings and rattlings of unknown description that stutter the track along, supplemented by the heavy and echoic movement of some monstrously ticking clock.

The other tracks all follow variations on a theme but with their own spin on the crushing drone that realises their visions; “Moggy & Wearden” is a rather openly nostalgic piece that proceeds the opener with big but jaded and distal drones that have sort of lost their impetus in their long trip through time, coming through as bleary and ancient vistas of smeared sound that’s oddly serene in presentation, but that’s where the lightweight material ends since “Acid Alan, Haggis & Scott” obliterates any sense of melody as it cruises on dark currents of bass and mean, crushed noise walls that seem to juxtapose the fond wist of rave we’ve heard thus far and embrace its abandonment within its chaotic and cathartic space. The closer “XR2 mk1 Sale Waterpark” takes a similar line as it takes off instantly in its eviscerating, jet engine explosion of initial noise, softly shifting as it evolves to highlight the more delicate and naive synth shimmers that mirror it below and the wailing, depressing noises it turns into. Its clearance leaves us with a tired and old drone remnant below that does nothing other than fade to black, a melancholic fragment that can do nothing except die.

I like that Kirby explores both sides of the coin here; he accepts that Rave is dead but there is still some wistfulness of those golden days of electronic music he fondly remembers from his youth, stoned hazes of impossible sounds and experiences. But he also highlights not only the brash and impromptu nature of the culture/music itself but also its abandonment in favour of normal clubs, a shift in perception that seems to have occurred remarkably quickly and how it’s faded from public consciousness. I’ve listened to it a lot but I think it’s more because it’s a fascinating sonic experience rather than out of actual enjoyment; in reality it’s a rather disjointed and incohesive affair but it’s filled with such textural detail it’s hard to avoid getting sucked in when every listen provides something new to latch on to.

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