Review: Astral Social Club – Abstract Double Concrete (Concrète, Feb 28)

One of the albums I most heavily associate with my tumultuous, stressful first year at university (I’ve since relocated to a different, more suitable institution) is Astral Social Club’s Happy Horse. Along with some other examples of dense, abstract, sun-drenched psychedelia (Sunroof!’s Found Star Sound, Kemialliset Ystävät’s self-titled LP, Black Dice’s Beaches & Canyons), Happy Horse provided me with a much-needed escape into a beautiful and lush alternate dimension, where oppressive negativity and deep existential paranoia are replaced with joyful, surreal textures and rays of sonic sunlight. The solo electronic project of Neil Campbell (Vibracathedral Orchestra, A Band, Smell & Quim) has been around for a long time, but Abstract Double Concrete is its first solo release since 2014’s Fountain Transmitter Meditations, and in both sound and aesthetic seems to hearken back to earlier releases. “funfun” wastes no time in blasting currents of ecstatic electronic mayhem directly into the vein, its detailed soundscape only becoming more so as harsher modulations are introduced into the mix. “Chunk Abstract” settles into a subdued but persistent techno stomp as saccharine melodic cells create hypnotic headspace, while “Concrete Sag” embodies a more sluggish psychedelic swamp, festooning every inch of the stereo field with watery, organic synth rollicks. While it doesn’t evoke as much raw, unbridled happiness as Happy HorseAbstract Double Concrete is a superb return to form for Astral Social Club.