A horrible hack

Blood Sport

Life in Units

Year Released: 2013
Format: LP
Label: Hybrid Vigour Records
 
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Mar 12, 2014
Second track "Palomar" is a good introduction to BLOOD SPORT's sound at its clearest, with crisp drumming, guitar parts that reference afro-beat, and a DC-ish take on post-rock - in this song, a sort of mellow "Argument"-era Fugazi tone. Unobtrusively flowing songwriting leads through seven and a half minutes of peaks and troughs, the guitar parts repetitive on the small scale but gradually moving through different cycles of riffs. There's a looseness around some of the joins which suits the sound well - instead of the quicksilver, euphoric virtuosity of classic afrobeat it's shadowed with art-damaged awkwardness, but still harnesses propulsion from its intricate patterns. Vocals are cryptic and mush mouthed, adding to a sense of menace that ebbs and flows through the track.

Restless and adventurous in songwriting, BLOOD SPORT have an ear for possibilities, rarely seeking to repeat a winning formula. Each track resembles a snapshot of an avenue of experimentation, choosing and accentuating particular facets of their sound and building coherent songs within them. The album spirals outwards from "Palomar" in some interesting sonic directions, particularly impressive considering the claim that "everything on the record is comprised of just 4 instruments with a few minimal space echo effects and no looping". The guitar sounds over the course of the album are varied and evocative, and hard-to identify shards of subtly abrasive noise appear on opener "The woodcutter" which, along with the warbling cut-up vocals, smear grime into the abstracted energy of the instrumental tracks, as spidering but near-static repeating guitar lines are given different inflections by a thoughtful, varied and craftsmanlike drum performance.

Elsewhere, the obsessively repetitive harpsichord-like tones on "20202016 V.I.P" are paired with metallic crashing rhythms and vocals of processed hauteur. The aggressively danceable "Dolla make me holla" superimposes cyclic patterns of different lengths, whole-tone scales adding harmonic crunchiness. It's a banger. "Dry water" is the only song that doesn't quite live up to its potential - its three parts seem juxtaposed as chunks rather than related to each other. The final five-minute section of the song ends the record in a static holding pattern, idea elaborate but welcome outstayed.

The combination of abstraction, ecstatic repetition and blurred menace could be powerful live - I'm imagining a 3am bacchanalian house party somewhere in Sheffield with BLOOD SPORT playing in the basement, unwitting partygoers entering ritual trances.


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