There isn’t an easy entrance point into the music of Raime, the London-based duo signed to the appropriately named
Blackest Ever Black label. At times it feels like Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead are purposefully erecting barriers around their work, desperate to keep listeners at a certain distance. This isn’t an inclusive experience. It doesn’t even tap into post-club comedown chills, although it comes close at times. Instead, the seven tracks here have the cold ripple of alienation and abandon pulsing through them. It feels like the soundtrack of a lonely night out, of someone standing by themselves in the corner of a club, examining a flyer for the umpteenth time, studying their phone just because it’s there. The early run of 12″ singles by the pair occasionally felt like austere classroom exercises, with Andrews and Halstead racing to the bottom just because they could. Quarter Turns Over a Living Linepeels open that sound, flushing some much-needed air through the pipes.
At times Raime’s work feels like a logical endpoint for dubstep, a natural dead zone where all that rumination can come to an uneasy rest. But it also resembles work that’s skipped the past decade or so altogether. Andrews and Halstead are self-confessed fans of jungle, and it’s easy to trace the 1990s peaks of chilly post-industrial outfits like Pan Sonic, Autechre, andZoviet*France here. Occasionally Raime’s approach is reminiscent of post-rock, especially in their fascination with a bloodless form of machine noise, but also in their use of ambiguously wordy titles. One of their earlier releases contained a track titled “We Must Hunt Under the Wreckage of Many Systems”. Much like the early Tortoise releases, Raime don’t give you any easy answers, instead scattering a trail of malleable clues and ideas for the listener to get lost in and interpret as they see fit.
There’s a sense of discovery to Quarter Turns Over a Living Line, with Andrews and Halstead unveiling the slow evolution of their sound over its 40-minute runtime. One of the earliest tracks is a version of “This Foundry” (retitled “The Last Foundry”) from a prior release, which is tightly bound up in the kind of itchy oppression of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13soundtrack. At times it feels like someone struggling for a last gasp of air after having a plastic bag wrapped tightly around their head, such as on the oppressive grind of “Soil and Colts”. But the astringency subtly releases in unexpected ways as the album progresses, especially when the use of non-electronic instruments is pushed up in the mix. It’s like witnessing Andrews and Halstead subtly chinking cracks of light into their sound, giving it a quality that lifts it above notionally “dark” works such as their rather hollow earlier output.
That lightness of touch is most apparent in the closing two tracks, “You cast will tire” and “The Dimming of Road and Rights”. Here, the sound of scraping guitar strings and violins come to the fore, adding touches of despondency and sadness that drag Raime away from their tendency to dwell a little too hard in a pool of bitter (and, on occasion, emotionally barren) brooding. Those elements are still present, but here Andrews and Halstead find a way to capture that knife-edge turn from rage into melancholy. “The Dimming of Road and Rights” plays out like an uneasy passage of time during an inconclusive argument, with both sides settled into an apprehensive truce, unable to find common ground, half expecting the other person to explode into anger at any second. It feels like Raime revealing a little more of themselves than they intended to when this project was initially conceived, a necessary and inevitable expression of connectivity that arises from spending so long depicting the solitary.