Death's Head Speaks

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Death's Head Speaks Review

by Paul Simpson

Laura Callier (Gel Set) and Whitney Johnson (Matchess) formed their Simulation project while touring together in 2015. The two shared a paranormal experience in a hotel in Montana, and several other strange incidents occurred, in addition to several canceled shows. For the rest of their tour, the two artists abandoned their respective solo sets, instead playing together as Simulation, and the collaboration continued when the duo got back to Chicago. Death's Head Speaks is their second release, and it sounds considerably more focused than their debut, but it still maintains a haunting, out-of-body sensation, and it's never obvious which direction the music is going to turn. On the surface, it sounds a lot like Callier's work as Gel Set, as shadowy vocals drift around detached, minimal electro beats. The supernatural eeriness of Johnson's work as Matchess is prevalent, though, and the project has a similar sort of otherworldly drift, but with heavier, more driving beats. Opening track "Canceling/Smoothing" has a steady, even thump which is upset by noise eruptions and sudden shrieks. "Everyone Goes Down the Spiral Staircase" sounds more entranced, with slow pulsations surrounded by dubby echo and a curious away of squirming synths and scattered percussion. "The Reverse Can Be Said" switches between forward and reversed vocals, and the rhythm similarly disappears and resurfaces; like most of the album, the track feels like drifting in and out of consciousness. The gentle electro-pop tune "How the Universe Is with You" is the album's sleeper highlight, with a soft, comforting melody and ethereal vocals recalling early-'90s His Name Is Alive. Throughout the album, Simulation channel psychic phenomena into fascinating, free-flowing explorations.

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