The Crisis Project – Compress / Omission

Long-serving readers may recall The Crisis Project being reviewed at Netlabelism before. The two-track EP ‘Scans’ (released in 2011 on BFW Recordings) not only found its way into the CAST06 Netlabelism podcast, but made my top-three shortlist of the best netlabel releases of 2011. This is hardly surprising, given the quality of this group. It is by no means an easy task to make music injected with such deep and compelling emotion whilst retaining the curiosity and interest of the listener. However, The Crisis Project seem to do this with such ease and consistency.

In addition to releasing great music and videos, the Bristol-based group have also been focusing on live production techniques. Their regular gig setup consists of synths, live vocals, loopers, and live drum sequencing. Projected on a screen behind leader Andy Russell and vocalist Harri Parish are live visuals generated by Jason Baker, who takes an audio and midi feed from Andy to keep the audio-visual bond as tight as can be. See this video for a taster…

Compared to ‘Scans’, the shorter and more vocal-oriented “Compress / Omission” is quite different from their previous work. It features vocalist Paul Farrow on both tracks, whose quirky style and cryptic vocal imagery twists these two tracks down a darker avenue than I would have expected. With a cinematic scattering of adept piano playing, Andy gets “Omission” underway. Following this melodramatic introduction, we are straight down the rabbit-hole with Paul’s only verse in this piece. The vocals are bubbled and glitched whilst still conserving the core of the content and style. The subsequent chorus is slow and sludgy; a great contrast to the tonally neutral pad and complex littering of resonant percussion. Around 2:30, the whole track takes a breath to prepare for the height of its madness, and a drawn out final chorus grinds the track to a smooth finish. I really like how these fast-paced sections contrast so well, yet do not hinder the binding unity of the track as a whole.

Next up, the comparatively upbeat “Compress” takes on more of a traditional song structure (verse, chorus, verse, etc.), which is quite comforting after the slightly puzzling form of the previous track. Paul’s vocal style really suits this take on left-field hiphop. His deep and cryptic lyrics slalom between granular pianos and convulsive synths, which makes for an eerie combo. Harri’s vocals in the chorus contribute beautifully to this distinct ambience, and successfully accompany the trademark Crisis pseudo-arpeggiating bass synth with fine style.

Three remixes are thrown in with this release. Jilk wins the ‘Darkest Remix’ award. I love how time is used as an instrument here. The beginning half of the remix is drawn out, with minimal percussion and reverberated reminders of the original track. Then at 2:03 it really takes off, with heavily cut vocals, the introduction of new accompanying melodic ideas, vicious repetition of a word in the chorus, a snippet of what could have been an old melodic Aphex Twin track, and new percussive ideas to push out a whole vocal verse, all in the last 2 minutes! Kayla Painter wins ‘Calmest Remix’ award. Slow occasional four-to-the-floor, sporadic vocal cuts, ambient pads breathing tenderly; it is a lush interpretation. The third remix (by Bitbasic) is my own, so commenting here is inappropriate. However I can tell you it was extremely fun to make!

This is a great EP. It is concise. It presents its ideas well. It has excellent melodic and harmonic ideas. The mixing and mastering is excellent. It has depth. It has clarity. My only criticism is the track order. Should it not be Compress first (song-like, has accompanying video…), then Omission (darker, more of a development of ideas established in the other track)? Maybe not. Anyway, Crisis continue to demonstrate their rich talent and wide versatility, and if their passion and diligence persists, it wont be long before we are treated to more of this wonderful music.

The Crisis Project – Compress

Link to: Release page

Link to: Video for Compress

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