Data is in bad shape in this paranoid and stuttering trek through what sounds like the leaky confines of the disused Avon Rubber Plant, its machines presumably credited by Garnett James as resource material for their menacing emissions and blippy malfunctioning claustrophobia. ‘Protect and Survive’ is a name shared with a slew of public broadcasts fabricated by the UK government back in the eighties, advising the public about what to do when the country was blown to bits in a nuclear attack. ‘Stay tuned to this wavelength,’ they urged, ‘stay calm and stay in your own homes. Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger’. There’s an analogous sense of apocalyptic imprisonment in James’ own desultory broadcast, and its deceptive call to arms is just as freaky.
The CD begins with an infuriating set of skipping, post-Oval caesurae, an anti-rhythmic scheme that has you frequently glancing at your LCD display to see if things are going in the right direction. Digital scrapes and pinged peripheral warbles appear spread across a capacious spatial terrain, but it’s no dissipating gesture, contaminated as it is by glassine spikes that cut the air as though in a quack rite of demonic acupuncture, sharp-as-hell pins epileptically flung about in the already dissonant haunt. The cracked, pointillist composition flickers between a filtered and hollow bit-crushed aquatic ambience to a licked static interference that booms heavily in dragged-out and fractal syncopation. Distant chamber echoes spill into the compressed squash of the foreground, before time-stretched, melodic would-be drones split through, foreshadowing the mangled Jungle breaks to come. When they do appear, it’s in truly broken, elemental fashion. The genre’s combusted tropes are spat back out in jerking cataplexy, its groovy symptoms materializing with contracted and Tourette’s-like abandon, sounding exactly like the Venetian Snares remix project that artist would never wish to listen to. Its tapestry of mutant disco tics is disrupted by a Stephen Hawking-like, automated lament, and as a maudlin guitar arpeggio weaves a sentimental patina over the top, it risks legal action from Radiohead for either milking or lampooning the Fitter-Happier vibe of smooth bathos and satisfying decay.
There’s an utterly singular wrongness going on here, and it’s certainly not of the variety that makes it into the Rolling Stone hall of fame. The all-over-the-place modem funk of the second track is totally errant, its icebox fizz and percolated spasms punctuated by a moody garage bass line, the incongruous theme arising amidst text-message interference, electrical sternutations, rubbery liposuctioned beats and tremolo aftereffects that lap in and out in a beguilingly uniform manner. The music’s arcade-game schizophrenia has an almost sedate measure of subtly seeping flux that alternates between sliding 2-D bliss (albeit a bit prickly) and unsettling somnambulant relief (definitely not of the pacifying kind). Its limited palette goes a long way, wound up and strangled in a wreath of trembling and tingling chirps and sawn-off square-waves, which alight upon a resuscitated forum of undead glitch. This reprisal of the digital accident in a sublimated genre of had-it custom FX that carry out a line of clip’d bleeps and click’d tocks is as refreshing as it is audibly scary. The organic and quasi-vocal quality of James’ sonic construction and architectural humming provides no release from the dark electrical dream. Which brings me back to 1980. Kate Bush is in the top 20 with ‘Breathing’ and the actor Patrick Allen reads aloud in his reassuring tenor from that classic holocaust infomercial: ‘Mine is the last voice you will ever hear. Do not be alarmed.’ 7/10 -- E.R. Chatterton (20 August, 2009)