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FZV – Soundsump

The shadowy producer known only as FZV is a long-term, low-profile participant in London's Pitchless Sound System and has often played at underground events in temporary spaces.

Operating in the bad sectors between dark, experimental electronica and dystopian dubstep, the FZV sound is  a well-crafted anti-party music that makes no concessions to listeners' demands for release or escape.

Fzv – 11 – orrb preview by FZV

Soundsump is FZV's second album following 2004's Precedent and two singles. In the intervening years the sound has become darker and more austere, keeping the beats more tightly in check and drawing in further influences from Autechre and (more distantly) from industrial. FZV is a producer with an awareness of the industrial scene and and although the form is quite different you can sense an coldly industrial approach to sound in his work.

Sonically it's well-produced, clean yet dark and always tightly disciplined. Opener 'Lfstppa2' is one of the more energetic tracks, mapping out a precise kind of parallel paranoiac dubstep with repressed drum and bass elements and sinister high notes. '54rlbrks' is very edgy and tense and 'Sndsump Re-edit' features sprawling and distressed dubstep lines.

As well as the sonic traces, Autechre's influence is visible in hyper-technical track titles such as 'BigDaRk 7mx' that suggest an Autechre-inspired sample or tribute CD. Yet what we actually get is an almost ritualistic atmosphere created by the interplay between ominous chords and a skeletal beat framework. Stretched ghost garage type vocal samples echo in  a bleak void, sounding like a transmission from a possessed pirate station. 'Cpr_wvfld -2' intensifies the uncanny atmosphere, evoking pictures of a ghost buoy tinkling in a digital fog.

The first part of 'Dx-dm' temporarily increase the album's momentum with energetic but fairly slow shuffling beats. It's the kind of track a DJ plays early in a set as a slow builder yet it's soon taken into darker territories by extremely dark and ominous tones. It's a warning of an even darker track to come later in the album. There are some shorter, more abstract interludes between the longer pieces but they rarely offer much respite. 'Elcint' features distorted static and is the closest to industrial tradition.

it almost never allows itself to arrive anywhere or to develop consistent momentum

'Cdlr_db Re-edit'  is very dark and moody, one of the most linear and directional tracks, almost danceable at times but with the inevitable mid-track break – a tense, strafed interlude of eerie percussion. When the beats do resume they sound wearier and more arthritic. One of the most interesting and sometimes frustrating features of Soundsump is the way in which it almost never allows itself to arrive anywhere or to develop consistent momentum. The defining experience is a kind of sonus interruptus, like a dodgy party where the power repeatedly cuts out, laptops freeze and fights constantly threaten to break out. Fzv – 01 – lfstppa2 preview by FZV

The increasingly dark atmosphere that has been building through the album reaches its apex with 'Orrb'. Extremely uneasy chords and orphaned beats gradually emerge from the sonic murk before a heavy arthritic beat staggers into view, only to be stalked by even darker chords. Rather than just a hackneyed aestheticisation of darkness, it's a sublime exercise in tension. Even for a listener with years of “dark” listening behind them there's something particularly insidious about this one. It creates a palpable, subcutaneous senes of paranoia that permits for no illusions. Orrb suggests how you might feel emerging from a constantly interrupted party, stumbling along a bleak backstreet in freezing fog as the post-party comedown kicks in.

Rather than just a hackneyed aestheticisation of darkness, it's a sublime exercise in tension

Assuming the person in this scenario makes it home without succumbing to paranoia they might turn on the radio hoping for something more uplifting, only to find that even the pirate stations are suffering a sonic blight. 'Taa10snds' is the remains of a more party-oriented dubstep track painfully stretched out and a similar formula unfolds on 'Kksemi54mx' as a sampled M.C. is never allowed to finish his phrase and the beats constantly promise developments that never occur.

'Metal' recalls the junkyard aesthetic of Spooky's obscure and underrated experimental 1995 album Found Sound. Writhing metallic textures scour what becomes the most linear and near-danceable track on the album. Both the title and the Tri Repeatae style industrial percussion of 'Aecoremx54' suggest it may be meant as an Autechre tribute and it's effective both in that sense and as an energised track giving a strong finish before fading out into undefined sonic squelches. The effect is as if after finally being given something to move to, the dancer looks down and realises they've been dancing in some ominously undefined slick covering the floor.

the dancer looks down and realises they've been dancing in some ominously undefined slick covering the floor

Taken as a whole, Soundsump offers the tension and danger of an illegal party with little of the release that people seek from them. It's a sub-oceanic experience that gives very little cause for optimism, a frozen analogue to the dystopian drum and bass of the late 90s and also a partial embodiment of the potential of the darker side of dubstep. In that sense it's an ideal contemporary dystopian soundtrack of high social and political relevance.

Available from Anathematica


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