Higher Authorities - Neptune
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RSD 2016 release. Limited to 750 copies.
Higher Authorities is a side project of Clinic members Adrian "Ade" Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley that leans heavily toward the group's dub influences. The duo's songs consist of a loose drum machine pulse surrounded by organ and fuzzy wah-wah guitar, and of course waves of echo effects. The album was mixed and co-produced by Adrian Sherwood, Britain's foremost dub expert, but the songs are closer to languid psych-pop rather than post-punk or reggae. At some points, it seems somewhat like Sun Araw with more of a pop focus and faster tempos. Other moments recall the homespun indie-dub-disco of Peaking Lights, but with a slightly paranoid feel rather than sunny optimism. Blackburn veers toward speaking rather than singing on several tracks, bringing to mind Underworld's Karl Hyde at times, particularly when his effects-altered voice chants "everything" during "Colour." Background studio chatter surfaces occasionally, lending to its casual, in-the-moment feel. There's only a handful of instances where the dub-damaged effects overpower the songs; this isn't anywhere near as harsh or whacked out as Mark Stewart's most bizarre work. "Monocle Man" comes closest to that territory, though, as it features some intense spliffed-out delay surrounding a British female voice who brings to mind Sherwood collaborators like Ari Up and Little Annie. There's a tiny bit of sly, mischievous Lee "Scratch" Perry-like humor mixed in, particularly when barnyard animal sounds start creeping into "Abracadabra." Surprisingly, it takes until the album's final minutes (during the relaxed, swirling title track) for a melodica to show up. Higher Authorities doesn't seem to have any ambitions beyond being an informal extracurricular venture, but it sounds decent and trippy enough.