Forgotten Cambrian Creatures is an often-aggressive, always-challenging release from Tri:.obyte (aka Dennis McVeigh). Packed with rough, distorted, and interruptive noises over sometimes passive undercurrents, the work here is designed to get in your face and force you to ask yourself what the hell is going on. McVeigh says he uses “an array of hardware synthesizers, iOS apps, and experimental techniques” in the work, and a lot of the weight goes to that experimental aspect. You get a hint in the short opening track, “Beetle Annamite,” where boppy little chime tones pleasantly sequencing their way along get zapped out of nowhere with buzzing electro-sounds and other forms of sonic complication. There’s your blueprint—and McVeigh’s just warming up. After a start that feels like McVeigh’s foot hit the accelerator by mistake, the 23-minute “Conflicted Stargazer” rams you straight into the tangly, complex mass of his style. Settle in…it’s not an easy ride, and there’s an awful lot to take in. Tempo shifts, an overwhelming density of sound, the spastic, lurching dance of glitch, distorted vocal drop-ins that you can’t understand, you’ll get all of this. You may also get a migraine, but that doesn’t make it a less interesting ride. (More interesting, as I will repeat later, if this kind of stuff is your jam.) McVeigh picks different fields to work in. “The Butterfly Effect” is a surprisingly downplayed ambient piece that maintains a quiet voice for most of its length. And when it does get messed with, it’s a much less complicated and pugilisitic touch, which takes it into a very cool place. “Dream Sequence I” steps off from a jazz-style bass riff, a freeform jam over long pads, both of which then get assailed by various clatters and cacophonies. McVeigh spins it down into a hazy space still flecked with odd sounds for a while before bringing the intensity back. Throughout, he nails his theme, laying out something that’s odd and disjointed, but with its own kind of internal, if not dizzying, logic. I find that it overstays its welcome by several minutes, but at least it’s always in constantly evolving motion. Truth be told, many tracks strike me this way. What McVeigh is doing catches my attention and holds it while I try to make sense of it all, and then they seem to keep going past what’s needed. In some cases it’s not length but approach that make me shrug and/or scratch my head. “Crepe” and “Mortal Star” both head off into a chipset space that’s just a bit too much for me, an overdose of irony that just pokes me in the eye instead of making me look at it more closely.
By no means is this release for everybody. You can say that about any music, it’s true, but this presents a distinct listening challenge that’s not likely to sway anyone’s opinion. If you’re already into the industrial/glitch/experimental approach happening here, you’re going to dive right in. I think less adventurous listeners will turn back quickly. I find myself in an odd middle ground where I can appreciate what I’m hearing and what McVeigh is doing, but I can only take it in doses—and some of it, not at all.
Available from Bandcamp.