Kcin & Brendan Clarke, “New Landscape”

New Landscape is the sound of a world in ruins, with no familiar directions or common signifiers to guide us through the wreckage. Alarm bells, air raid sirens, nuclear submarines and evil drones rust in the forgotten vaults of a long-dead civilisation. Our ears can scarcely distinguish between sorrow and joy anymore—there’s nothing left to mourn. The Australian duo of Kcin and Brendan Clark have truly dropped a stunner for the ages.

It should be impossible to make a drum-and-bass duo sound as full as a symphonic orchestra, but not unlike fellow Australian percussionist Oren Ambarchi, they manage to squeeze enormous soundscapes out of a limited textural range. On opener “Short Bow,” for instance, Kcin’s cymbals roar like waves crashing against a cliffside, with a sheer army of brass plates wailing under the measured violence of a well-timed drumstick, while Brendan Clark’s bass manipulations sound like an entire string quintet waking up from a drugged slumber. On other tracks, they match the controlled chaos and bombastic verve of another underrated duo, Richard Pinhas and Yoshida Tatsuya.

But they’re just as likely to switch on a dime from futuristic jazz-rock to primitive meditations.

The epic “By the warmth of your devices” suggests a dystopia bereft of order and civil society, not too far from our own. Humans as mere flesh-bags huddle for survival by the flickering lights of their screens, emanating some changes in air pressure that can hopefully pass the time in a somewhat interesting and endearing way. Distortion, humming resonance, and aqueous non-rhythms sputter in and out of attention, but there’s nothing resembling drums or bass to latch on to in your conscious being. You fall ever-deeper into a void of uncertainty, with nothing to break your fall.

“Machine,” meanwhile, doesn’t suggest anything mechanically operational at all. Far from it—a violent, slapdash rhythm merely suggests the cranking gears of some hideous contraption left on autopilot, long-abandoned by production, a perversion of automation.

Other epic, bewildering journeys on the album leave you gasping for air, awaking with night-sweats, crying for the primordial embrace of the womb. But there’s no going back—this is where we are now, in this wretched muck, and they’re determined to make a damn good racket out of it.

It may have all been a performance, an elaborate prank, or a serious study into what happens to the earth’s sonic atmosphere after humans are gone.