Best Vancouver albums of 2016: Usd. – ‘Kola Dubs’ (ISLA Records)

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Under the new moniker of Usd., former Nervous Operator Spencer Davis has embarked on a totally enthralling tonal exercise with Kola Dubs. Precisely controlled tides of static spur queasy inertia on “Tired Blood”. A steady beat topped with squeaky accents and hollow, resonating percussion quickly fades in on “Punks in Bloom”; the track’s nearly single synth chord repeats hypnotically.

Kola Dubs sounds wholly industrial until a hallucinogenic, soft-edged keyboard wafts in on the jungly “Potter’s Field”. Ventilation drones eventually blow over the track, but Davis retreads from those mechanical sounds and continues prowling on the barer “Adiz Temple”. And if any melodies weave their way through the album, closing track “Katabatic Wind” blasts them all away. Harsh noise infiltrates the final few minutes of Kola Dubs, poised to penetrate the listener’s chest cavity. But even the intensity of this final distorted passage subtly modulates. Everything comes to an abrupt end though, like air suddenly being sucked out, creating a vacuum, or like Spencer Davis suddenly pulling the plug on the generator that’s powering Kola Dubs.

With enough beat-oriented moments, listening to Kola Dubs feels like dancing on a cold factory floor, under flickering fluorescent lights controlled by a dimmer-switch.

Standout track – “Tired Blood”

See the rest of my picks at Vancouver Weekly.

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