This dense and often foreboding debut from experimental electronic trio Anjou finds former Labradford bandmembers Mark Nelson and Robert Donne reuniting for the first time since their last outing as Labradford, 2001's stripped-down effort Fixed::Context. Labradford's work through the '90s was groundbreaking in its exploration of texture and minimalism, but their looming fields of ambience and crackle were far too often swept into the margins of "space rock," underestimating the depth of Nelson and Donne's unique relationship with sounds both lovely and uneasy. Anjou picks up the thread of uneasiness from the work the two began decades prior, offering up a slowly crawling blur of noisy modular synthesizer squall and murky ambient beddings, often met with equally damaged live instrumentation. Percussionist Steven Hess rounds out the trio, and his contributions bring these songs out of complete otherworldliness with his rhythms that creep in and out of view. The overblown drums that fade in part of the way through "Readings" stumble drunkenly, like a vagrant bumbling through an otherwise peaceful park on a foggy morning. The fog in this case is the barrage of synthesizer sounds that the album is built on. By turns, the modular synth sounds can be aggressive, confrontational static ("Specimen Question"), low-lit twilight mellowness ("Adjustment"), or a combination of both extremes ("Sightings"). Deeply processed guitars and occasional hard-to-identify tones peek out of the mix from time to time, adding obscured melody to the tracks in the same manner as other greats of the Kranky roster like Stars of the Lid and Windy & Carl. Caught between restless, challenging avant electronic and searching melodic ambience, Anjou's debut continues the outsider feel that hung on much of Labradford's catalog. Even when they strike a chord that sounds recognizable or relatable to their already esoteric scene, the sounds are still all their own and most likely still very many years ahead of their time.
by Fred Thomas