“SHARD” is a complex and rich album from CHERUBIM, a succinct blend of nostalgic evocation and forward-looking anxiety.
Collective RP33 are fast building a catalogue of intriguing manipulations. Members NORTH and CHERUBIM claim total and exacting control over their work, mostly to the benefit of the finished product. Generally, nothing about the two’s work is out of place or without meaning; their snares and hi hats click and snap like mechanical parts, their melodies are rewarding to listen to, and bass explodes, flooding out the lower regions of the mix. “SHARD”, an album released by CHERUBIM towards the end of February, is defined by six examples of this total authorship paying off.
“SHARD” concerns itself with pushing the line between simulacra and immersive experience. CHERUBIM’s productions come with a distinct trap flavour, but borrow heavily from ambient and vapour music. The melodies on closing cut “TREPIDATION” are set atop a noisy wash of reverb and synthetic hiss, which would be deeply entrancing were it not for the wildly sequenced bass constantly nudging the listener awake. As the title states, its a deeply nervous ride, providing no closure to the album’s tense atmosphere save for a Low-key percussive mix. “SHARD” builds tension from its opening seconds, “COVE” begins the album with spectral bells that seem to bounce off of one another. Crushed synths enter with a playful dissonance, they’re joined by a similarly crushed bassline. The whole soundscape recalls 16-bit gaming, as if the listener had clipped into a secret level – curious but still intentional. By the time polished drums enter a high-strung guitar line has established itself to ensure the song’s anxiety simply can not dissipate. “DRASTIC” follows in the footsteps of “COVE” with a simpler progression, but even less predictable leads. “CUT” is fittingly surgical, with fleeting drums and compressed synth flutters carrying the song’s less impactful kick pattern.
It’s because of the fourth track “GLASS” that “SHARD” fails to be a seamless journey. “GLASS” lacks the direction or executive grip that the rest of the album exhibits. The melodies are formless, and percussion is utterly random. CHERUBIM’s voice shows so much more potential than “GLASS” allows for, and as a producer he’s proven he can do better. Luckily the following track “PROCESS” is blisteringly good. A macabre analogue-sounding lead dominates the first half of the song. Drums come together like rifle parts, with CHERUBIM waiting a painstakingly long time to pull the trigger – tension returns as he changes pitches, cuts some elements and emphasises others. By the time the shot’s fired it’s too late to notice, and a swarm of melodies are forming a halo around the listener’s head.
“TOCAPTUREINFINITY” pulls back from the intimate stress that the majority of “SHARD” relies on. An ethereal ring underscores the entire piece, as if to suggest higher powers are at play in the struggle the album builds. “SHARD”, as prophesied by its title, doesn’t tell a whole story. Missteps aside, the album really does feel like a piece of something larger. The Lovecraftian concept of the universe’s secrets being just above the head of humanity comes to mind, so close but so far from our understanding. As CHERUBIM inevitably becomes even more proficient, perhaps he’ll reveal more of the truth – one shard at a time.
Listen to “SHARD” here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)