Pagan Interface – Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void – Album Review
From the project that brought you The Last Days Of Everything earlier this year just prior to summer 2019 – one of our favorite oddities from the independent music realm returns to the SBS homepage. Here in review for a brand-new record called Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void, it’s none other than the notoriously scattered sounds of Pagan Interface – an IDM-meets-EDM artist that has a genuine gift for making remarkable music built out of layers that brilliantly interact with each other, all guided by a steady professional hand and a genuine penchant for creating songs that’ll mess with your perception.
You know we love that here – let’s do this!
Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void begins with “The Sidewinder’s Empathy” and a twinkling piano line. Quickly expanding into vibrant synthetic sounds and a wicked beat to go along with it, Pagan Interface’s new record shifts into a solidly engaging atmosphere right off the drop. Hypnotic and fully mesmerizing, if it wasn’t for the consistent chops on display from PI and the way a track like “The Sidewinder’s Empathy” is cut and edited to keep your attention & interest piqued – you’d get fully lost inside of the swirl of sound at work here, never to return. Giving the song an almost carnival-esque melody that comes alive even more towards the end, the contrast between that and the smoothness of the beat actually works much better than anyone would think it would on paper – somehow, it all fits. It’s musical madness at its finest for sure, but as fun or as bizarre – or both as it can be, it all works and the whole song moves, stops, and starts up again like a well-oiled machine that knows where it’s headed.
“Neuronal Disintegrity” will likely prove to be a tougher track for some more than others; it’s a murkier vibe and the beats are more scattered than they’ll appear at first…its relentless seriousness isn’t quite as welcoming as what we just experienced in “The Sidewinder’s Empathy,” as the new album by PI already makes its first major switch in direction & sound at only track two of the record. I dig that there’s a distinctly mysterious and menacing mood in the atmosphere of this tune…and as an experience on the whole, without sitting here trying to dissect every single beat & sound, I think that the eerie-but-rhythmic vibe this song has goin’ on is its most dominant trait. Though I also really liked the inclusion of the…I dunno what you wanna call it…I suppose it sounds like a heart monitor at a hospital, but in this case it’s probably keeping track of the ol’ brainwaves, as the title would imply. Whatever makes that sound, in addition to the scattered haunting elements clinging to the walls as we move through this tune, it all stacks up to a killer experience – “Neuronal Disintegrity” should be the kind of cut that grows on listeners quickly. The more you dig into it, the more you discover its intrinsic mechanics and how much is involved in creating the movement, pulse, melody, and vibe here…but for the most part, people don’t really listen to music that way – they just know what they like by listening from a wider snapshot-view of the song as a whole, and I can’t imagine anyone out there not being at least interested by what they’ll hear on “Neuronal Disintegrity” – it’s a meaty tune where the clever meets the bizarre head-on.
Dude forms melodies in brilliantly unsuspecting ways…like you’d almost never have a chance at seeing what’s about to come at you in that respect when it comes to “Out//Run” before you realize you’re already right at the heart and core of the entire song & loving life. A wildly bombastic and riotous combination of bendable & explosive sounds, with high doses of sparkling melody and wicked beats, “Out//Run” is the kind of cut designed to reach all ears out there. Not necessarily in the traditional sense of what accessible is by any stretch of the imagination – but because of the sheer force of the music and the extraordinarily interesting sounds at work here. Reminds me a lot of the depth you’d find in the early work from DJ Shadow on records like Endtroducing; Pagan Interface hits extremely hard throughout this song, but gives the entire cut tremendous balance to its pull towards mayhem with stunning melody lines, rhythms, and grooves that couldn’t be denied by any set of ears listening. Fantastic clarity and production on this song, and on this record when it comes right down to it – the mix on a track like “Out//Run” would be no easy task, and Pagan Interface is nailing it with exciting ideas, professional instincts, & the courage to go beyond where most would dare in search of something new.
If I’m not mistaken, two songs from the previous record, The Last Days Of Everything, show up again on this new album from Pagan Interface, the first of which is “Cherry Blossom Glitch.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked to be able to hear it again – it was a rad cut back in May when I reviewed the last album, it’s still a rad cut now, and arguably it suits the vibes of Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void even better. I was a little perplexed to find it appear in the lineup, but I’ll happily welcome back a solidly hypnotic and inventive cut like this onto my playlist any time. Read my previous thoughts on “Cherry Blossom Glitch” from the review on Pagan Interface’s album The Last Days Of Everything by clicking right here. It’s a good inclusion to this lineup, but perhaps a bit more questionable considering there are songs like “Megadrivesky” later on that will borrow a little bit from this blueprint and offer semi-similar vibes. It’s not like a cut like “Cherry Blossom Glitch” is going to hurt a set-list like this one – it may be a seventeen song album and an intense demand on the everyday listener, but this is a strong asset to the album still.
Like, I get it…for some people out there, what Pagan Interface creates is just going to be considered to be noise…I know many people myself that just wouldn’t ‘get’ this project or likely half of what’s on my own personal playlist at any given time. That said, listening to “Marla’s Den” brought back a full appreciation as to why I dig Pagan Interface so much…and that’s because this dude really gets how to use texture, sound selection, structure, and pace, all to the advantage of each experience and song. The results here are seriously rad…”Marla’s Den” ends up being a ton of fun…almost like, mechanically-inclined fun…like what you might imagine a warehouse would sound like if all the machines and forklifts started jamming. What that has to do with Marla, I’ll never know – but that’s my take on what I’m hearing on “Marla’s Den” – maybe she’s in there somewhere with a long metal pole conducting this wild warehouse jam after everyone else has gone home for the day. Also, if I haven’t mentioned it already – I should probably let you know, the music of Pagan Interface will send your brain in strange directions. It certainly does for mine – but I accept the task of listening with honor and genuine interest in allowing myself to have my reality warped by Pagan Interface – I think songs like “Marla’s Den” show a real mastery of what types of sound grip us as listeners, and get our brains responding in exciting new ways.
“P R (A:E) Y” – I’m a word guy, as many of you know – let me just say officially, I not only think this cut sounds fantastic, I even love what’s happening in the title of this song. As per the usual with all-things-Pagan Interface, it took me a second or two to realize what was being said there…and what role the title might play in the song I was about to hear. And then of course I have to consider the source – it could just be Pagan Interface having some fun with wordplay and it bears no relevance at all to the music, instead offering a separate riddle for the mind that’s bound to take you to a dead-end, or to the nuthouse as you put in way too much effort to solve a puzzle that never really existed in the first place. Anyhow…back to the music. The pace picks up significantly with “P R (A:E) Y” and the outstanding way that PI is able to take you through such enormous audio extremities to end up in an effective set of hooks that radiate from the speakers, once again provides a sleek & sly journey to experience. Another one of those cuts from PI that has you swirling in the thick of it all before you even realize you’re there, “P R (A:E) Y” comes out bursting at the seams in the concoction of inspired energy throughout this song.
As I mentioned in the intro to this review, Pagan Interface keeps the sounds scattered, diverse, versatile, highly dynamic, and comin’ atcha at all times – this isn’t the kind of project to sit still for long, you feel me? “Carnivores” is nearly about as chilled-out as you could ever expect Pagan Interface to be, and if you’re listening intently, of course you know it’s still 100% busy AF and all kinds of involved! I really dig this kind of combination however…you’ve got the layers of jazzy undertones happening underneath the surface of brighter electro frequencies and sounds…solid beat and innovative movement – this is ear-catching stuff for sure. Easily one of my favorite cuts on Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void, “Carnivore” is stocked full of texture and tones that leap from your speakers and straight into your soul. That jazzy horn sample in the mix gives this whole song a real back alley feel to it…like you’re out late at night and all the steam from the streets is creating a fog that gives the atmosphere around you a sense of danger, anonymity, and odd comfort all at the same time…massively effective layers at work in this track. It’s the second shortest cut on the record, and definitely one of the songs I completely felt like I could have used a whole lot more of…but that’s what the repeat button is for dear readers, dear friends.
Personally I’m cool with tracks like “Western Playgrounds” that are a lot more all over the place than some of the others by comparison to the ideas & tangible cohesiveness…I could fully understand that many out there wouldn’t be able to hang with this tune and get why that would be. Pagan Interface fully knows that a lot of these tracks and tunes he comes up with are…challenging to say the least, if not a complete attempt almost at pushing listeners away that wouldn’t get the artistic merit and uniqueness a project like this can provide. High-end frequencies are bound to get the better of the masses even on the best of days – it’s the audiophiles out there like myself that find themselves addicted to them. As far as my ears are concerned, “Western Playgrounds” is a completely rad jam that once again gets my brain moving in that way that only IDM can – the complexity is always there, but always presented in such a noticeably interesting way that absolutely keeps me listening and fully engaged. Or maybe I’m just now fully lost within the hypnotic vibes that Pagan Interface is so freakin’ great at creating at this point…maybe I don’t even know which way is up anymore. I just know what I like, as always – and I think “Western Playgrounds” is killer audio entertainment – LISTEN to what happens around the 3:40 mark! For about thirty-seconds, PI unleashes one of its most accessible moments…giving you a taste of what would be so easy for this project to give ya, yet always chooses to break it up into a much more involved and intricate structure that will glitch, stop, start, breakdown, and build back up by design. Again, to me, that’s the appeal in Pagan Interface…I love that it’s music that challenges what we know.
When PI wants to go a more accessible direction, it’ll happen. While I know that a track like “The Boxer” isn’t really much easier for the average everyday listener to follow than “Western Playground” just was – ultimately, there’s a smoothness to the sound & vibe of “The Boxer” that has a much better chance of reaching a bigger audience of ears. Pagan Interface dials-back the desire for high-end frequencies being jammed at ya, and instead favors a badass groove built of solid D&B at its core. Reaching into a set of undeniable hooks and stellar tricks up its sleeve, this Electro-based project fires up the energy within a truly low-key sound and amps up this entire vibe to spectacular heights as a result; “The Boxer” is a knockout. While Pagan Interface stops/starts and shifts gears quickly in the intro, by about twenty seconds in, you’re fully in the flow of cleverly jazzy sound and low-end rhythm combined. PI will take moments here & there throughout this cut to break it up and break it down as always, but you also get solid rips through lengthy sections of the music that are intact, and wildly enticing to listen to. Ain’t no doubt about the fact that PI can create, dissolve, or re-invent a beat of damn near any kind, but it also seems like when it comes to “The Boxer,” Pagan Interface knew where the majority of the hooks were and really went after bringing them to the surface for all to hear. I do think it’s a little bit front-loaded when it comes to what parts the people will connect to the most, but I also think that “The Boxer” never gives you a reason to stop listening either…it’s definitely another essential song included in this lineup.
I dunno…I know I might be in the minority of people out there that feel like they do ‘get’ what Pagan Interface is all about…but c’mon…I’m not alone right? You must be able to hear that “Eagle On A Bald Surface” completely slays too, can’t you? LISTEN to the melody that’s been created here as the main hook…and recognize that…jeez…I don’t even know – recognize ALL of it for the awesomeness it contains? I suppose what I’m saying is, you don’t just stumble into a song like “Eagle On A Bald Surface” without putting the work in and being willing to become a pioneer explorer in the art & craft of music. To me, this is about as innovative and unique as music can get…and at the same time, exploratory and accessible, which is once again due to the attention to detail that Pagan Interface puts in from production to performance, and the jaw-dropping selection of sounds, textures, tones, and samples that are threaded into the mix of songs like “Eagle On A Bald Surface.” Tell me what’s not awesome about this! I’ve heard some fantastic cuts on this new record from Pagan Interface, but I’ll fully admit that every time “Eagle On A Bald Surface” came on, I was fairly convinced I was listening to my favorite track from the entire record. It starts with such a deadly rhythm right from the drop, continues on with an enormously subdued beat and huge depth in sound…call me crazy, but when it comes to high-quality ideas and audio entertainment that keeps you right on the edge of your seat to listen like this track does…well…isn’t that a good thing? The melody that evolves and develops in this song is extraordinary.
With the pulsing in & out reoccurring at times, a couple of these tracks can end up pumping out a similar vibe as a result. Like I ain’t hating on “Megadrivesky” – I think there’s still a ton to love about this track, but I do think you’ll find that you’ve heard a similar blueprint or two from Pagan Interface when it comes to the majority of this song’s structure & movement. Don’t get me wrong, for me, more of a good thing is a great thing – and there’s no reason whatsoever that if you were digging on everything you’ve heard up to this point in the record that you wouldn’t like this as well…it’s just a little more familiar to the sound of the PI catalog. There’s value in that too…it takes a lot for an instrumental-based artist in any genre to stand out and have that identity in their sound – when it comes to songs like “Megadrivesky” I feel like I could pick this tune out from an entire Electro playlist blindfolded and know that it was Pagan Interface…so make no mistake, having that kind of recognizable aspect of your music can be a really damn good thing too, even if it seems to be a little more predictable in other ways. Never was fully sure about the inclusion of “Megadrivesky” – it has its moments, but there’s also a lot of times where it did feel like many one too many ingredients in the mix of this particular track as well. Like when I listen to the layers, I can hear a lot of great things that would go down smoothly – but in that ever in-your-face style of PI, what could be easy is tackled hard instead, to make it more challenging for us to follow, and more rewarding for this project on a structural, artistic, & sound-collage level I’m sure.
And truthfully, I might still argue for the inclusion of “Megadrivesky” before I’d support “Tolerance,” which I think could potentially be an even tougher track for the people out there to love. As far as the music of Pagan Interface goes, I think “Tolerance” shoots wide of the mark for the standards that have been previously set, favoring an upfront melody to lead the way that’s not quite strong enough to keep us fully with it at all times, losing us in the hypnosis of the repetition. Hard to say whether or not PI suspected this as well…it’s the record’s shortest song at just over three-minutes in length, so that could be an indication that Pagan Interface had an idea that keeping this song shorter would be to its benefit. Which ultimately, I think it is to a degree…I’d still say there’s likely a little too much sameness happening here throughout the majority of the song, but by making it shorter than the rest, it at least gives a track like “Tolerance” a chance with the people out there listening. The quality in the production & performances never drops, but the strength of the main ideas driving “Tolerance” just wasn’t there in comparison to the rest of the highly innovative & more dynamically flexible material surrounding it.
Gettin’ the sub & dub filters workin’ harder on “In/Transigence,” Pagan Interface creates one of its most ambitiously structured & frantically-paced tracks on Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void. Well…’frantically-paced’ depending on which layer you’re paying attention to, or the overall thickness of the vibe in the whole track I suppose…you could very well listen to “In/Transigence” and feel there are a ton of chill & low-key moments along the way, from the ringing out of the haunting melody in the atmosphere, to the impressive way this track stops/starts on a dime at multiple points as it plays on. So perspective is key as it always is of course, but let’s face facts – if you’ve made it this far into Pagan Interface’s skewed universe of sound, your perception has been warped long ago now…so who knows what you’ll hear and what’ll stand out to you the most? No doubt that if you liked or loved what you’ve found so far that you’ll continue to stick with tracks like “In/Transigence” and its actively hypnotizing sound & movement – PI knows how to chop up and slice a beat to keep you listening and flexes a ton of that finesse throughout the bold sound of this song as it plays on. Which was a good call to make; I think that “In/Transigence” could arguably also be a bit static in the melody it pumps out at ya, so PI goes about creating the majority of its versatility through the movement in the structure instead.
One of the most divergent cuts on this record would be “Enjoy The Fallout.” I wouldn’t exactly say that PI’s new album has been mired in the dark, but the majority of the songs on this record carry a weight & seriousness to them that sticks with ya – and “Enjoy The Fallout” seems to take a quick break from all that to let loose and lighten up the vibe. Armed with one of the most extended breakdowns of any tune on this record, you’ll think you were just in for a sample when it seems like “Enjoy The Fallout” will come to an end around the 2:20 mark – but have no fear, Pagan Interface brings this hot jam back to ya soon enough to keep on crushin’ it for nearly another two minutes to follow. With the slightly psychedelic tinge the music has in the background and the way different sounds come at you in waves, “Enjoy The Fallout” creates a lot of fun and enticing moments that put the outstanding transitions and way that Pagan Interface can morph, shape, and move music around on full display for all to hear. “Enjoy The Fallout” kind of has that like…I dunno…that pre-game or pre-concert feel to it, like you’d hear this song blaring over the loud-speakers while the people file-in and get amped-up for what’s to come; not exactly background music by any means, but so chilled-out and relaxed that it just seems to suit any vibe and slide right into the atmosphere as the soundtrack that comes with it.
On a record as long as this one is at seventeen tracks, I’m kinda surprised to hear both “Cherry Blossom Glitch” and “Spacefunkprostitution” resurface here on Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void after both having appeared on the previous record, The Last Days Of Everything. It’s the kind of choice that makes me wanna know more…like *cough *cough, ahem, it might be time for an interview with Pagan Interface to get some answers here! I fully understand that the cohesion exists for both tracks a bit more on the inside of this record and its overall sound for sure…but it still seems like a strange decision given the fact that The Last Days Of Everything came out such a short time ago. I dunno…hard to complain with quality you know? “Spacefunkprostitution” is as mesmerizing as it gets really – I’m more than happy to experience this track all over again…and again, and again if it comes right down to it and Pagan Interface decides to make this a standard inclusion on the release of every album from here on in. Alright, alright…chances are that’s not gonna happen in the future – but a second helping of a track I’d welcome back as much as this one is always gonna be A-OK with me, yessir. Read my original thoughts on “Spacefunkprostitution” from earlier in 2019 in the review of The Last Days Of Everything here.
The real signature sound of Pagan Interface comes back to the album with “Guns By The Sea” containing just about everything I love from this project inside this one song. The exquisite frequencies return, the smart background layer of melody off in the distance is there, the insanely inventive beat, structure, and movement is all as on-point as ever. “Guns By The Sea” also happens to be one of the brighter sets of sounds and songs on this album, but you gotta be real here – that’s an enticingly smooth vibe ain’t it? You know it is. PI makes sure there’s always a dimension of challenge to listening to the music being created, and generating those high-end frequencies alongside what would easily be an accessible tune otherwise is a completely purposeful move. For some people, like myself, it’s those same high-end frequencies that make it even more appealing to listen to – for others, it’ll be more of a struggle to take the ears off of and appreciate the rest. I’m fully sure that Pagan Interface has long reconciled with the consequences of uniqueness and likely laughed it all off – you make music like what PI makes because you truly love it personally…not because you’re worried about what someone else out there might think. There’s something about the friendly cadence and welcoming bouncy & bright attitude in the sound of “Guns By The Sea” that I’d be willing to bet will open up Pagan Interface to a whole new audience of potential listeners…people that would normally be on the fence about something this flashy and sporadic when it comes to the music they listen to, but can’t help but be enticed into this tune.
Opting for a more accessible and expressive song to finish the record, “R I D (Spam In My Air)” gives the last moments of Psychic Feedback & The Crystal Void a set of tangible ideas and sound like you’d hear in projects like Four Tet or Autechre. While there’s probably an argument to be made that this final track goes against the grain of much of this album in that sense, it’s also awesome to hear Pagan Interface thrive in another dimension of the Electro circuits. I mean, when it comes right down to it, there’s actually quite a significant chance that PI is ending this record on what will be many people’s favorite cut from the entire lineup – and that’s a solid achievement considering how many moments of completely wild & imaginative cuts we’ve all experienced along the way. There’s no underestimating the power of accessibility though…when it’s there, it’s there…and there’s nothing you can do to stop its allure & pull. The easy-going vibes of “R I D (Spam In My Air)” have that magical, dreamy sound that beckons you in to listen to the sweetness you’ll find; and while Pagan Interface still goes to work and puts in an impressive performance chopping up the beat & flippin’ the script & all-that, you gotta appreciate just how smooth this last experience on the album goes down and how readily your ears stick with a song as slick as this. Pagan Interface is an exceptionally unique project out there in the Electro realm. Like all great conclusions, you feel the end of this album has arrived with the distinctly different direction this last song takes, capping off another record full of blissfully inventive twists, turns, glitches, and twitches from a project that confirms it can be trusted to take you on an all-out audio adventure, every time.
Find out more about Pagan Interface at the main homepage: https://www.paganinterface.com
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