Albums Under £5: Hey Colossus – All The Humans (Are Losing Control) (2016)/ Ferenc Vaspoeri – Elegance EP (2006)
I’m not certain whether All The Humans (Are Losing Control), the new release from rock quintet Hey Colossus, is supposed to be a single or an EP. None of the definitions I can find of an EP quite cover it, but I feel like it’s long enough (about twenty-two minutes) that I can give it the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, however, I’m throwing it on the EP side of the fence because there’s another EP I want to talk about: Hungarian producer Ferenc Vaspoeri’s Elegance.
Elegance was one of four releases put out for free to celebrate the online launch of Hungarian label Chi Recordings. The rest are all worth a listen, and do a good job of laying out the glitchy, pared-down foundation which the label would work upon until it petered out a couple of years back, but Elegance sticks out because of Vaspoeri’s gift at making these minimal beats fit against a warmer backdrop. A lot of Vaspoeri’s playing revolves around shearing as much as he can off either side of a sound without it completely losing its identity, giving the EP a clipped, propulsive sound – brief suggestions of piano flicker across taps on a bass drum, and horn samples burst out of nowhere before being folded back into nothing. On its own this could make for an austere listen, but the tracks are all built around some element which gives them life, like the emotive synths which serve as a foil to the muted piano loop repeated throughout Memento, or the sinuous basslines which creep low in the mixes of the opening two tracks, turning them into something you could conceivably dance to.
For whatever reason, Vaspoeri never made a full-on follow-up to Elegance. There are quite a few individual songs on his Soundcloud, some of which are very good (especially the blissful Selflessness), but even when he looks back to Elegance’s whittled-down style on those songs he’s using it to create something more energetic, more like house music. In a way it’s a shame that he never took Elegance’s sound further, but even taken alone the EP is a satisfying listen.
There are points where All The Humans (Are Losing Control) shares some of Elegance’s minimalism, but never its warmth. It sets the tone with a sustained note from what sounds like some sort of medieval string instrument – hollow and chilling, like something they’d play at funerals to remind you of original sin – before launching into the opener and title track, which lurches along on a detuned two-note bassline as the band half-chant ominous, detached lyrics about brainwashing. All The Humans (Are Losing Control) [The Song] could just about fit on their last album, Radio Static High, without raising suspicion, but where Radio Static High might be their brightest and most accessible album yet, this song takes the tighter structure and lyricism they’ve been moving towards for the last few years and drains it of all light and colour.
It’s a fascinating move for the band. Up to this point a lot of their best moments have come from the sense of scale and power they’re able to give to songs – look at the titanic bassline on Okktave Dokkter or Eye For An Eye, which builds over five minutes into a fury of drums and roars torn to pieces by feedback, like that time the Soviets dropped recording equipment into Hell – but All The Humans doesn’t steer away from that as much as rip it inside out, leaving dread and emptiness in its place. The shift is even clearer in the next two tracks, re-workings of songs from last year’s In Black And Gold. The first, Black and Gold, swings from triumph to desolation, its mammoth riff shrouded by electronics and the power-drunk croon of the vocals replaced with howls in the distance. Wired Brainless keeps the momentum of its chugging bassline, but where the original was taut and purposeful, All The Humans’ version shambles through the night punctuated by stabs of guitar, giving a sense of being chased more than anything else.
I don’t really know whether this EP is supposed to be a step forward for the band or a look sideways, showing us how terrifying In Black And Gold could have been before moving on to something else. I hope we get more of it. It’s far too off for me to call it an ideal place to get into Hey Colossus – In Black And Gold would probably be the best jump-off point – but All The Humans’ cavernous production and decaying electronics have a draw to them unlike anything else I’ve heard from the band.