Waxy Tomb – Imminent Fold [Gilgongo]
Well, here’s a tricky one. Every so often you run across a record that seems to taunt you while you write about it. With every attempt at description, I hear a ghostly scoff of “Nice try…” One must forge on through the aural and authorial wilderness, however, for the chance at arriving anywhere close to the desired destination. Dither and die.
Waxy Tomb is Jules Litman-Cleper, ostensibly a human hailing from this terrestrial plane, though I’m skeptical. Ah, the age-old ‘alien music’ trope. Overused? Quite. But, I swear, this time it’s really true. I have no trouble picturing an extra-terrestrial researcher poring over hours and hours of static and suddenly happening on Imminent Fold beamed from another dimension. Frantically attempting to explain to the skeptical powers-that-be that these are songs. Sir, sir! If you pay attention there are rhythms, melodies and (inaudible gasp) even words: “This is pop music.” An astonishing revelation sending chills up several spines.
Though it is far from a one-to-one comparison, I keep coming back to Sightings as a point of reference for Waxy Tomb. Both artists make it a point to work within traditional(ish) song structure but eschew any traditional approach in doing so. For Sightings, it’s the power trio rock band. For Waxy Tombs, it’s synth pop.
If you revisit the beginnings of synth pop, when Kraftwerk had sufficiently infected the minds of Daniel Miller and John Foxx, inspiring their respective synthetic discharges, things were weird. The Normal is weird. Metamatic is weirder. And then Gary Numan somewhat accidentally becomes a pop star and the form gets progressively straighter, more refined, more digestible. Imminent Fold is the result of an alternate history where synth pop never catches on, instead becoming a permanent refuge for the strange. The outcast form enduring mutation after mutation for four long decades until this LP emerges.
Is it a stretch to call Imminent Fold a pop record? Probably. But that’s the point. Litman-Cleper is re-imagining what one can do with familiar features and creative building blocks. But what does it sound like? Digital synthesis brain scramble, violently swinging between severe two-second loops of thump-click-bloooop and hare-brained drip and splatter, smothering an amorphous being who sounds like she’s attempting to communicate to a new race for the first time. Not haphazard, but employing structures a mere mortal can’t comprehend. The LP’s 18 tracks don’t feel like songs so much as nooks and crannies of one big bulbous, misshapen growth (handily approximated on the cover).
A big lyrics book (yes, real words are being sung and spoken!) is included, appropriately stylized to the point of illegibility. Looking like a fucked edition of those Magic Eye books with the hidden pictures I could never see as a kid (and probably still can’t as an adult either). It feels like a momentous event when I make out a phrase in the book and on the record at the same time.
Sometimes when I finish reviewing a recording, I feel like my journey with it is complete. I know it back to front and have extracted everything there is to know. I certainly don’t feel that way about Imminent Fold and I don’t expect I ever will. Too many unattainable secrets lie within these grooves. A pop record I’ll be listening to the rest of my life and still never figure out. How often does that happen?