Albums under £5: RSS B0YS – HDDN (2015)
Who even are RSS B0YS? Google doesn’t reveal much beyond “Polish electronic duo”, and I’ve no idea how you’re supposed to learn about Polish electronic duos aside from Google. The phone book? They say on the Bandcamp description of one of their other albums that they met in Benin, but they might just be doing that thing where they take the piss that I’m bad at noticing. I assume they’re going for anonymity, which considering they’ve been releasing stuff since around 2012 is pretty impressive. It must be a logistical nightmare doing anonymity – pretty much everything you did would bring you closer to discovery, especially now. Burial lasted two years between his debut album and somebody grabbing the cheesecloth and I don’t think he even fucked up himself, someone out of Hot Chip just made an off-hand comment about which school he went to. Banksy’s had a good run – it’s been around fourteen years since his first exhibition – but scientists think they rumbled him a couple of weeks back by mapping everywhere they think he’s been then feeding that into a computer. How would you even protect yourself from that? Good luck to RSS B0YS, I guess is what I’m saying.
Anyway, the closest equivalent that I can think of to HDDN, their 2015 double album, is Aphex Twin’s Drukqs. They’re both long albums, each clearing the 100-minute mark, and if you’re not in the right mood they can be pretty difficult to get through in one sitting. Each use song titles that I need to keep cross-referencing with the internet like a cheat code to make sure I’m typing them correctly – Drukqs has tracks like Bbydhyonchord and Orban Eq Trx4, whilst HDDN is full of names like 103 B00L00CY /FYNF/ and 110 /LT/ /-/ 00-00 V0L7 (for the sake of my patience and yours, I’m just going to refer to them by the numbers at the start of the titles for the rest of the review). But whereas Drukqs is a surprisingly sad album once you get into it, HDDN is shot through with lurching, sugar-rush energy, like one of those bolted-together waltzers you get at piers and regional fairs with pictures of monster trucks and off-model Batman villains airbrushed on them.
A lot of this comes from the sheer amount of stuff going on in the album. RSS B0YS keep pinballing from one sound to another, right from the beginning. 101, the opener, is faltering and minimalist, with a see-sawing whine over a drum machine that keeps hiccupping like it isn’t plugged in right, but 102 roars in on a four-to-the-floor beat and a sky-tearing bassline, eerily like a streamlined Shoot The Runner if you’ve stayed awake long enough. 107, one of my favourite tracks off of the first disc, is for most of its duration crisp and mechanical, the closest thing to melody a two-tone buzzsaw noise woven in and out of it, then right at the end they throw in this piano loop and it suddenly becomes pretty and ethereal for its last fifty seconds before the next song tears off in another direction.
It feels strange talking about the first and second discs of something that I’ve downloaded (there is a CD version, but I’ve never seen it in stock), but it’s worth doing so because they’re doing very different things on each one. The first disc is made up of material put together in a studio, and all of the songs have an elastic snap to them – they’ll edge towards collapse, but they’re tightly wound enough that they fall back into place. The second disc, meanwhile, is more improvisational, and doesn’t have the same security. The songs become dark and sprawling, and the clean, metronomic drums that dominated the first half are slowly consumed by more aggressive beats like the broken-printer rumble of 202 or the absolutely titanic one on 212. 212 is so good I’m not even sure what to say. RSS B0YS spend like a hundred minutes putting together this big dense tapestry of clicks and static and booms and echoes, and then they spend the last six kicking it all to pieces with this industrial stomp the size of God. I love it.
Somebody called Jan Mikuła (I reckon he’s head of the label, but the only Jan Mikula I can prove to exist is a Czech footballer) admits in HDDN’s Bandcamp description that a double album isn’t the most obvious fit for a group so determined not to keep still. It never outstays its welcome, however, thanks to RSS B0YS’ ambition. They use the size of their canvas to explore as many of the possibilities of electronic music as they can, and the result is something to get lost in.
HDDN can be bought from here.