No strangers to obscured and uncanny electronic sounds, Wrexham natives Gallops venture once more into uncharted territories with their latest EP ‘The Offa Society For Psychical Research’. Written and recorded in Offa, the Wrexham ward taking its name from the 8th Century Mercian king, the EP intends to act as a false, pseudo-occult artefact (a device often employed by the likes of Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft) documenting the paranormal investigations of an imaginary local association, who are in essence a “provincial Ghostbusters without the budget or sense of humour”.
Releasing the body of work on their new SKANDALKONZERT label, members Mark Huckridge, Brad Whyte and Gavin Thorpe have sought to steer away from the club-centric, AI-directed techno tendencies of prior releases towards a doom-infused dividing line between reality and unreality, musically taking influence from industrial EBM and Detroit techno, alongside gothic literature and ‘weird fiction’; Huckridge stating he has “developed a sceptical, but keen interest in the occult over the last few years, largely thanks to writings on Western esotericism by Colin Wilson, Erik Davis and Ramsey Dukes.”
The findings of ‘The Offa Society For Psychical Research’ are premised by ‘Liquid & Envy’, a short yet bludgeoning prelude which sputters and thuds, its topline punctuated by unsettlingly warped and wavering pitches. These opening sci-fi-esque tones set an eerie, claustrophobic precedent, evoking the cries of black cats and the tormented howls of spirits awakened at the séance.
Before the following track begins, the listener is met with brief and indistinguishable dialogue through warped radio static – this device frequently employed as a tattered thread tying each track together. Though subtle, these moments I felt were invaluable in promoting the project’s sense of uncanniness, eliciting themes of hauntology and ‘ghosts in the machine’ through their murky marriage of decaying analogue formats with the occult.
The scene now set, ‘Hemlock Chaser’ launches with a relentless pounding, each respective stab and screech like a sonic blow to the temple, before smash cutting to a maintained monosyllabic bassline. From here the track possesses an excellent ebb and flow; strutting beats and chattering hats build beneath a foreground pockmarked by shifting, unstable guitar lines which collapse into the stomp of gritty cacophonies. Its textural back and forth satisfyingly culminates with a pop-oriented hook directed by soaring lead synths, a welcome resolve of tension that oozes mystery and magic, while never renouncing an underlying threat.
Following suit, ‘Paint It Diseased’ peters in through a static haze which is soon obliterated by a shuddering, uptempo thwomp. The aesthetic leans headily into EBM and acid rave contexts, its 303-style bassline capturing a pace and punch that latches aptly onto wonky sci-fi overtones. Its maintained claustrophobia releases, in similar fashion to the previous track, with a rich and expansive arrangement, the cinematic lead sitting somewhere between intergalactic and paranormal.
Sharing a rich and emotive harmony, tracks four and five appear cut from the same ghostly veil. Honing in on a far steadier pulse, ‘The Crunching Teeth Of Sharks’ is grounded by a subby kick drum akin to someone thumping on your door in the dead of night, unannounced and unrelenting. The piece evolves into a rather danceable inclusion, the beat building and building around a Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggiator motif, its filters gradually releasing as soaring cinematic pads creep sinisterly beneath, until a sudden surge of warmth comes with a hypnotic closing hook that’s teeming with psychedelia and retrofuturism.
‘The Offa Society For Psychical Research’s investigations conclude with magnum opus ‘Youth Medium’ which maintains a sparse and drifting, achingly emotive quality throughout its lengthy opening build. Tension is pleasingly dispersed as we drop into a pounding four-to-the-floor, the trancey topline possessing a warm bowed timbre that’s infused with digital degradation. The breakdown that follows employs haunting swells, establishing ethereal mystery paired with a certain melancholia, before a smack of dopamine usurps the limelight – this outstanding drop laden with crystalline, shimmering guitar lines which cut through a throbbing undercurrent of gritty textures and persistent beats.
This anthemic finale runs its course, eventually dialling back to the disturbed sounds of radio static as the séance draws to a close. Gallops have produced a micro-conceptual masterclass, the sum of its gothic-tinged parts melding exquisitely in dense and fuzz-laden sections that hit hard but equally know when to relinquish their impending doom. While classic techno and EBM tropes carry over, the EP never feels hemmed into these; the palette of warped textural devices lending the work a distinct character which is suitably roughed up around the edges, and unleashed at volumes worthy of shaking even the more dormant spirits.
Words: Kieran Macdonald-Brown