Review: African Ghost Valley – AAM (Jollies, Mar 5)

Geneva duo African Ghost Valley (hereafter AGV) are masters of conciseness. Very few of their releases even reach the 30-minute mark, instead restricting the project’s dense electronic soundscapes and noisy freakouts to digestible lengths. AAM is no different; AGV’s new tape release on Jollies Records feels intensely curated and carefully revised, for not even a single second of its nineteen minutes feels wasted. The oppressive, apocalyptic milieu that the duo so frequently conjures is transposed to a different abstract locale this time around. As the blurb on the album page states, the music on AAM evokes “an unmistakable scent of acrid sulphur, oppressive heat, and sandy air; a raw primitive planet,” a group of sensory images no doubt helped along by the tape’s deep yellow-orange cover and volcanic imagery. The title track begins the journey with frenetic power-noise rhythms and skull-rattling bass frequencies that trade space with ethereal synth melodies and ambience, creating a short slab of shifting sound that’s both abrasive and atmospheric. Things get a bit more deconstructed with the following two tracks, which make heavy use of granular dissection and agile glitch blasts. “USYRUP,” however, is a classic AGV track, complete with the seething drones and portents of doom that make their music so distinct, and “OUDD,” perhaps the tape’s most reserved piece, breathes boiling waves of humid distortion that hang in the air for a while and then dissipate like acid rain clouds opening their maws.

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