After the manic-episode, atoms-bursting dancefloor energy of part one and the subdued introspective IDM gestures of part two, Prolaps return with another two-hour slate of experimental electronic music for part three of their Ultra Cycle meta-series. This time, the music scoring the procession of seasons is noise and drone, the kind that sits just on the other end of IDM, where the formerly frantic beats dissemble into throbbing static that feels like decay. This is still an Ultra Cycle release though, so the dancefloor is not far from this material, albeit now heavily mutated after four previous hours of extended body melting jams. This isn’t to say that the album can’t be enjoyed on its lonesome; there’s more than enough sonic candy here for any fan of astutely maximalist post-modern music to find something to grab on to. There might even be something satisfactory about the kind of narrative-breaking, shattering the composure of this otherwise seemingly through-composed eight-hour set of music broken across two releases by ingesting it piecemeal and out of order. In the context of the overall series, though, certain moods begin to strongly emerge that aren’t present in the record in solitude.
Take, for instance, the keening despair on the record. This emerges most when feeling it against the hyperactive danceability of the first volume, a frenetic explosion of energy that eventually evened out, like heat death, to a low-level trancelike thrumming, the om of this piece. Autumnal Age doesn’t just take place after this, it exists almost within the black hole era of the sound universe of this macro set. Industrial tones overtake melodicism and while rhythm remains present and compelling, it is more like the hammers breaking apart a human body than the pulse of the dancefloor. That pulse may yet remain, but it is transformed by this point into a slaughterhouse, meat against meat, slick not with sweat but blood. Psychosis transforms light into terror and darkness into teeth; there is claustrophobia in this record in isolation, but squared against the previous two sets, the feeling of loss is insurmountable. These records nominally chart the progression of a human lifespan. Given the tone and timbre present here, it is safe to say Prolaps carry, at least on this project, a scoured and acid-blackened view of the body and spirit in aging. Some of us feel wiser and more strong, if not in the body than in the heart. Here, there is only decay, only the slow loss erring toward that fatal black.
Breakcore emerges and departs, shrapnel of a previous age, but here is coated in malicious static. It’s dense and image-heavy stuff; just like how spring for Prolaps wasn’t a sea of green but instead an exploding fractal full of color and summer was a breezy almost post-city pop field of contemplation, autumn is no longer the era of leaves turning inside you and sweatered insights but instead the anxiety state when your body begins to fail but you are still too young to surrender to death. There’s no real way to prepare a listener coming in cold with how intense this winds up being. Those familiar with noise records and the paradoxical intensity of ambient records will understand, but even for my ears, developed by years of extreme metal and progressive music and jazz fusion and avant-garde classical, this is still an overwhelming experience. For those who savor such things, it will certainly deliver. Two hours may seem like a long time, and being only two within a broader 8-hour framework even more so, but when in the thick of things it’s hard to imagine wanting to turn it off. It helps, as experienced DJs, that the duo mix the record as a single extended suite, a kaleidoscope of changing colors. But it’s also just so rich and effervescent, burbling and cracking and scraping at just the right frequencies to thrill but not to exhaust.
This is the kind of music that, after hearing so much music in a year of so many different approaches, thrills you to pieces. It feels like there’s a little bit of everything here, from the spirit of punk and heavy metal to reggae and dub rhythms to the macroscopic scalar work of prog epics and psych jams and midnight DJ sets. There are layers here, the immediacy of a hook set against the avant-garde impressionistic sound squiggles and reinterpretations and degradations of previous ideas in constant flux. It’s particularly thrilling in the context of this year’s new record from Low, a minimalist exercise using exceptionally abstracted textures and a taut, clear rhythmic foundation to create immensely moving music. Prolaps proves with Autumnal Age and in fact all of the Ultra Cycle that we cannot be totalizing in our approach to or understanding of art. There is a lawlessness here, like Crowley and Blake, where more is more and the burning of the Empyrean and consumptive dark of Choronzon feast on each other like a wheel. Casiotones paint a post-vaporwave image, showing these guys are as adept at staying modern and with the shifting language of experimental and arthouse electronic music as knowing its history. After a certain point of ingesting so much art, you begin to see walls, rules, limits. Prolaps reminds that these are all virtual, real but only insofar as they are useful, and so easily discarded.
Label: Hausu Mountain
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.