Not all that dissimilar from the trend one time collaborator Robert Hampson made from Loop to Main to his solo works, Gordon Sharp has also evolved from a more conventional musician (appearing on works by This Mortal Coil and the Cocteau Twins no less) to an idiosyncratic electronic composer in the past 30 years. In line with his work from the earlier part of this century, touchedRAWKISSEDsour is a mass of laptop generated noises that are actually much more nuanced then they would seem on the surface, intentionally obscuring a rich world of composition.
One of the things I found most compelling about my first listen to touchedRAWKISSEDsour is how Sharp sneakily mixes in conventional sounds and instrumentation in these otherwise digital whirlwind chaotic recordings. Low-end sweeps and high pitched screeching might be the first impression of "Dancing on Ledges," but a little bit of guitar begins to sneak through and at the end taking on an almost overtly funk sound to it. Piano appears throughout on the lengthy "Yugao," and makes for a stark traditionalist contrast between the off-kilter orchestral samples and textural layers of DSP noise. It makes for perhaps the most melodic, beautiful piece of music on the album, but sounds like it came from a different universe entirely.
Noisy might be a characteristic of recent Cindytalk albums, and this is no exception, but there is also a good deal of rhythm to be had, even though it might be unconventional to say the least. "E Quindi Uscimmo a Riveder le Stelle" has Sharp piling dissonant loops together with harsher moments of laptop noise stabbing through. The loops, while of an unclear source, have a metallic complexity to them that fits together like a digital gamelan. Closing piece "Mystery Sings Out" is built from similar rhythmic techniques, but, in a more open, subdued composition. What sounds like synthetically modeled rain and thunder sounds creates the mood as bits of voice sneak through, perhaps as a passing reference to Sharp's previous role as a vocalist.
More rudimentary and erratic rhythms underscore "Reversing the Panopticon," paired with a twinkling, melodic electronic passage up front in the mix. While at first it might seem to follow a more conventional structure, before long it slips into disorder and entropic noise, with even what sounds like some raw guitar feedback tacked on at the end. A majestic, almost fragile melody also is emphasized on "Mouth of my Sky (Open Up and Swallow Me)," but again placed within the confines of a larger industrial soundscape. The beautiful and ugly slowly lurch along together for the piece, paired up perfectly.
Like last year's A Life is Everywhere, touchedRAWKISSEDsour at first blush makes for a messy, dissonant and extremely chaotic sounding record. It does not take long, however, for Sharp's musicianship and ear for composition to reveal itself. These concessions to melody, or brief flashes of conventional instrumentation is exactly what makes this album so memorable. Complex and multifaceted, each song seems to mutate with every listen, a feat very few artists working in similarly discordant techniques can manage to accomplish.