David Toop & Lawrence English
The Shell That Speaks The Sea
Incl. printed inner sleeve
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1Abyssal Tracker 6:35
2Reading Bones 6:33
3Mouth Cave 4:19
4Whistling In The Dark 3:45
5The Chair's Story 6:11
6Huanghu 2:57
7The Tattooed Back 5:18
8Long Night 4:09

English and Toop first met 20 years ago and the two have long maintained similar ideas about the potential physicality of music. ‘The Shell that Speaks the Sea’ is a realisation of that years-long conversation, with results that articulate Toop’s long held sound vision (here executed with his own voice, electric and lapsteel guitars, whistling, percussion, flutes and electronics) around English’s stunning recordings of various insects, birds and exotic animals, such as the Tawny Frogmouth, an elusive creature whose voice is like a modulating low frequency oscillator.

The duo clearly revel in the uncanny, combining those field recordings with unusual textural diversions and shortwave interference, like a more ambiguous parallel to Jon Hassell’s fourth world modelling. Windy field recordings draw us into ‘Abyssal Tracker’, accompanied by synths and wavering percussion. Somewhere in the distance, Toop’s quietly deranged whispers offer a sort of ASMR gore component, far too possessed to sooth the brain. The process is evolved on ‘Mouth Cave’, with moonlit cricket chirps underpinning ghost flute and bass drum rolls; widescreen and lavishly engineered, the track builds a soundworld that’s so physical you can almost see it render before your eyes.

Their more direct tracks play decisively with gothic horror: ‘Whistling in the Dark’ is a luxuriously experimental chiller that matches Toop’s nonchalant whistles with gong hits and eerie, high pitched synth strings; and ‘The Chair’s Story’ is as faded and grim as Thomas Köner’s early work, with Toop sounding like a possessed Graham Lambkin or Holger Czukay, whose cult Les Vampyrettes echoes through the album like a distant omen. As proceedings draw to a close, the two refine and elevate, ‘Huanghu’ is a stunning piece of multi-dimensional Gamelan, like some 4D rendition of Autrechre’s Confield played out in your dreams, and ‘The Tattooed Back’ sets flute vapours against vibrant, hyperreal rainforest detritus.