Last we saw the diabolical label don Liquid Stranger was at the helm of his own Wakaan Music Festival last October. For his final set, he launched into a new song called “Psychonaut,” a track so stunning and effective his fans have clamored for it months later.
Today, that song spearheads the Ascension EP, a concise and focused release. Where last year’s “Infinity LP” tackled a thousand sound design ideas over thirty tracks, the six songs here are razor-sharp and best of all, surprising.
“Psychonaut” is just evil in studio form. The dizzying main plunge crackles with warped arcade jingles and venomous low-end. Even better, the pyrotechnics get rolled back to let the song drip with deep dub menace.
“Ascend” shows Liquid Stranger’s underrated talent for gorgeous downtempo. Recalling fan favorite “Dissolve,” the song feels like breaking through orbit. Washed out vocals and chimes glide off a rippling melody. The drop is surprising again, adding a sense of danger to the comet course with rock solid percussion.
“Hammer” with Luzcid amps up the percussion even further with a brutal snare crack anchoring the meanest rhythm on the EP. As fans of both artists, I honestly can’t tell where Liquid begins and Luzcid ends style-wise, the song is so cohesive. The second half trades weight for danger, with a hair-raising pulse of a bass line that tears through the closing moments.
“Laser Burn” with Hydraulix pummels forever forward with yet another thunderous beat, one that doesn’t change so much as it bends, morphs and distorts. Hydraulix showed us on last year’s “Space Cadet” EP that he can keep experimental drum work interesting and punchy by never slowing down, which works really well over fast, bristling beats like this one.
“Sunken Technology” with LSDream is the most unique song I’ve heard this year. Liquid’s aggressive phrases answer LSDream’s melodies remarkably well. The bright slinking sounds at the beginning really do feel like coming upon a futuristic Atlantis, and the two just delve deeper and deeper.
Navigating sunken cities under oceanic pressure sounds quite a bit like the wonder and doom I know LSDream and Liquid Stranger can evoke with their sounds, and this tracks begs for a full EP of atmospheric deep dives. The sound design is remarkable.
Finally, “Over n’ Out” is Liquid Stranger signing off with a sparkling epilogue. There’s an uplifting well of reverb pouring right out of this track, with gentle keys just out of reach. At just over two minutes, the song serves as a light reminder of the forthcoming “Sskwan” downtempo label from Liquid Stranger, one that we can’t wait for.
This is a rare EP to leave us so satisfied with six tracks. For an artist as associated with dubstep as Liquid Stranger, it proves there are still a lot of sound design surprises out there that flippantly defy genre cliches. We can’t wait for this Ascension tour to crash land near us.