Under Review


Kola Dubs

Isla; 27/05/2016

Vancouver ambient electronic artist Spencer Davis has moved away from his Nervous Operator pseudonym to record under a new name. Usd.’s genre is self‐described as industrial dub techno, though Exclaim!’s take, “damaged dub techno,” is just as apt.

Kola Dubs is the first EP released as Usd. On it, Usd. melds electronic melody with disconcerting dissonance. The songs are composed of layers of juxtaposing sound, with tonal shifts throughout the tracks as each layer comes into prominence.

Side A opens with the disjointed electronic notes and indistinct conversation of “Irrational Actor,” backed by the kick of a snare drum and a continuous drone. The song’s melody shifts in and out of focus before it recedes into the white noise.

“Tired Blood” has the strongest industrial base of all the tracks. The track’s most notable feature is its percussion; a regular rhythm is broken by clanks, rattles and whines. A repetitive melody is overdubbed with a conversation about cyber bullying prevention. Directed by Katayoon Yousefbigloo, The video for “Tired Blood” depicts a woman’s quotidian activities — gardening, make‐up, groceries — made disquieting through visual distortion and flash forwards.

“Punks in Bloom” has an electro-pop sound and an upwards tempo. The track is backed by the distortion and ambient noise that characterizes Kola Dubs, but its preeminent feature is its techno beat. “Punks in Bloom” stands out as the brightest track on the album.

Side B opens with repeated chords and heavy dissonance. The dissonance on “Potter’s Field” is more distinctly foreboding than it was on any of the side A tracks. Minor notes waver behind an echoing rhythm, and reach the forefront by the track’s end. “Adiz Temple” is bass‐heavy and melodic. A soft rattling is slightly off time with the track’s main rhythm. The video for the track, released on the Nervous Operator YouTube page, is a series of shifting graphics in black and white. The movement coincides with the shifting depths of the sound.

The album concludes with “Katabatic Wind.” The track is a tempest with a heavy drone, a relentless beat and an ambient sound that resembles a storm. The wind and the clattering that accompanies it ceases, and the album reaches its end. The silence that follows is a disquieting calm after the discord of Kola Dubs.