The final entry in Fax Gang’s “RGB” trilogy is the group’s most mature work yet – their decaying digital world is realised in detail and overcharged with emotion.
Fax Gang launched into the underground in 2020 with “FxG3000”, an endearingly insane collection of surge rap songs compressed and bitcrushed to leave the sound with a glittery jagged edge. They’ve been refining and redesigning since; debut album “Aethernet” had moments of satisfying overload but at other times felt reckless, and collab EP with blackwinterwells “Fractalize” felt content to float at the periphery of either’s signature style. The group’s footprint grew, playing shows in the US and teasing new work.
“Dataprism” is Fax Gang’s second album, and it takes the best of the group’s short legacy forward. It is a conceptually tight record about communication breaking down in a world that can’t split the virtual from real life. Lead singer PK Shellboy is at their lyrical best across nearly all of the project, and while the brutal loudness that “FxG” and “Aethernet” applied so liberally is gone, the signature Fax Gang crush remains. Across “Dataprism” the production is in a superposition of build and melt, sloughing into pixelated rubble and growing with seismic power. This might sound like nothing new, but here the group have finally struck an ideal balance of pressure and purge, using their sound to tap into that euphoric niche between close listening and overstimulation. It is, for the most part, a very rewarding listen.
Fax Gang records have always had some interesting lyrical concepts, but “Dataprism” elevates this to genuinely affecting storytelling. “Pendulum” is the early standout, set to a bittersweet instrumental from group veteran GLACIERbaby that sings in its own right, layered with fragile digital synths. Shellboy’s mantra “Navigate, navigate, through the clockwork, fabricate, fabricate, few are constant” is ripped from the precipice of loneliness. The song describes the ways grinding puts relationships in a position of sacrifice, how “trust in the process” leaves foreheads bleeding and “innocence” takes people away. Layering is essential in many of these tracks; “Reprieve” comes closest to the group’s early fury and is one of the album’s densest moments. Maknaeslayer provides an atmosphere that flails melodically against desperate singing. “Reprieve” stands its ground at the midpoint of self-worth and selfishness; “Can’t even see the point if all these problems aren’t mine” sings Shellboy on the opening verse, before ending the song with calls for reprieve, a break from the “nothing around me”.
Something unchanged from “Aethernet” is how well Fax Gang incorporate featured artists. Here they score an appearance from shoegaze artist Parannoul on the closer, “Four Walls”, a more confident merger than those with wells on “Fractalize”. PK Shellboy’s tales of agoraphobia and broken ceiling lights are met with internal incision from Parannoul; “All these biploar condolences comprising my soul” feels at once searching and evaluative, a fitting comment for the record’s end but also inviting repeat listens. In fact, “Dataprism” as a whole is less confrontational than it’s predecessor, the introspective and honest lyrics reframing any harshness as PK Shellboy’s fight to grasp the world, rather than wanton noise.
Elsewhere on the record are moments of simple bliss. “No Evil” features a killer verse from Mx.PurpleHaze, her raps weaving between distortions in the song’s droning base. “90 Degrees” spins cryptic stories of escape against a blistering beat. Fax Gang newcomer kimj arranges an evaporating club vibe on “Space Requiem”, which shows a softer ambient style of decay. “Spiral (Pierce)” falls a little awkwardly against the album’s otherwise tight track list, displaced by indecisive cadence, but the choral autotune at the end does give the album one of its more regal moments.
“Dataprism” is the best album Fax Gang have yet produced. It’s outstandingly conceptualised and elegantly executed, which is something of a rarity in a genre defined by low-res loudness. PK Shellboy shines as a terminally online fabulist – though their writing is anchored to reality, the production crew’s computerised aether frames even the most heartfelt confessions as interactions between machines. It is a record of our time, full of the anxiety and senseless euphoria of the internet as all Fax Gang records have been, but never before has such haze seemed so clear.
Listen to “Dataprism” here.
– Jamie (Managing Editor @108MICS)