For some reason the myriad synaptic connections in my brain, designed to interpret millions of tiny pieces of information at the speed of light, initially visualised Lost Chocolate Lab as a wonderful laboratory painstakingly recreating Timeouts and Fuse bars. Like Jurassic Park, but with chocolate. Damian Kastbauer probably already knew this and has incorporated the double meaning into both his website artwork and the duality of the music. Of course Lab is short for Labrador for which the sad, lonely and helpless connotations are as apt for the former February man’s improvisations and audio experimenting on this remarkable solo project; and which successfully melds both. Conceived as far back as 1998, the following year’s Beautiful Flute and follow-up, Seed, were experiments in flute, percussion and production and may have long since slipped from memory but, honed at an almost glacial pace, Lost Landscapes is one man’s love letter to the first wave of shoegaze pioneers and built entirely out of guitar and bass.
The record’s real life laboratory was a daily commute between Seattle and Bellevue, and lead single ‘Squall’ made no attempt to hide its musical and geographical influences, you can almost smell the industrial landscape. Maggot Brain-era Funkadelic guitars overlay a distorted, higher pitched drone as the reverb ramps up over its six minutes into a punishing outro but which is merely an introduction to the fitful intensity of Lost Landscapes. Primarily composed around one-take bass and guitar ‘passes’ which Kastbauer then edited into an 80 minute suite rippled with waves of effects pedal manipulation, invisible clouds of feedback, and sonic unravelling as the pulsing foundations then sub-consciously swell this record like gravitational waves through space. Opener ‘Contents/Weightless’ is a 10 minute drone with gentle acoustic guitar, a post-rock seascape where the guitar gets twisted and warped before reaching a timely precipice at about eight-and-a-half minutes and plunging into a whirlpool of effects.
‘Everything Is Heavy’ contains the nearest thing to a riff, occasionally reminiscent of Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker‘ or the intro to ‘Breaking Into Heaven‘ by the Stone Roses (that musical duality) as it drifts in and out on a wave of psychedelic distortion. Fans of Amorphous Androgenous will dig this and it is by far the heaviest track on the record.
It is all suitably schizophrenic; discordant, disjointed, disruptive, disorienting and frantic (and that is just the first minute of ‘Horseback Headspin’ before it peels off into an ambient reverb drenched paranoia, like the slow drift into Colonel Kurtz’s lair) or, on the pulsing loops of ‘Shall We Start Over’ which is like a gentle migraine, at times barely audible save for a breezy electronica that brings to mind ‘Monolith‘ by the Beta Band. It’s the cleanest recording here with barely any extraneous noise merging seamlessly into ‘Dancing Towards Infinity’, seemingly built around its own echoes before descending into hellish and disturbing effect-laden feedback. It’s cognitive anti-therapy.
In fact, the whole of Lost Landscapes is a kind of dissonant journey. Far from the literal commute. It’s a fraught journey of contradictions that shouldn’t get you anywhere but does, it will make you think of records you’ve never listened to for years (and of wholly disparate genres). An intention to create tangents of thought, or a blissful monotony. It’s a dark and introspective journey, most certainly at night with the headlights off but when it peaks, which it does just enough, it’s like a beautiful phosphorescence or a night blooming flower in the road.
The self released Lost Landscapes is released on 31st August.