Föllakzoid’s V begins like an incoming transmission from a distressed spaceship. The barbed remnants of a synth tone modulate and wriggle; low-slung bass notes throb with menace; a kick lumbers into the mix as spiky harmonics jut against it in a syncopated rhythm. After swirling around each other for nearly two minutes, the elements click into place, the groove snapping into focus. But instead of moving in any clear direction, we’re ushered further into the void, staring wide-eyed at the vast expanse the band conjures.
Over the past 14 years, the Chilean band, led by guitarist and filmmaker Domingæ Garcia-Huidobro, has set out to explore psychedelia’s outermost reaches. While they made their name referencing the scorched riffs and repetitive chug of bands like Hawkwind and Loop, on 2015’s III, they shifted toward the insistent pulse of dance music, assisted by German producer Atom™ (née Uwe Schmidt). They pushed further into electronic territory on 2019’s I, foregoing in-person jam sessions and instead handing Schmidt 60 independently recorded parts to arrange as he saw fit. This time on V, they compiled more than 70 stems and relinquished any control over the music’s structure.
The result is the group’s most pupil-dilating record, straddling the line between vicious minimal techno and heady space rock. Whereas previous Föllakzoid records topped out around 120 bpm, Schmidt sets V’s tracks to about 130, what some consider the sweet spot for techno and trance music. His arrangements are more dynamic and detailed than ever, the standard four-four thump of the kick drums augmented with tom fills and splashy cymbals. The music is often brutal enough to soundtrack a blood rave, but has gentler moments, resembling the verdant synthesized ecosystems of Voices from the Lake or Segue.
Each piece contains tiny, spellbinding moments of beauty amid the echoing din. Guitars, mostly relegated to single note accents or pick scrapes, ring into infinity through trembling delay. There aren’t really melodies or chord progressions to speak of, but synth notes sometimes cluster around each other, momentarily coalescing and fading away. In the final minutes of “V - III” the bass pokes out from behind a screen of shimmering noise and plays an almost optimistic-sounding figure that never repeats again, like a fleeting gasp of oxygen in an endless vacuum.
Though Föllakzoid has traded some of their initial accessibility for intricacy, the result is ultimately mesmerizing. The album’s chilliest and best song is “V - II,” which white-knuckles through serrated distortion and uneasy drones. Galloping noise anxiously lopes just ahead of the beat, giving way to a latticework of shuddering, colorless guitar. About midway through, the drums expand into a rollicking pattern, collapsing into massive EDM-like bass wubs. Suddenly, everything cuts out, leaving you blinking. V is relentless in its intensity, but allow yourself to be swept into its icy, alien atmosphere you’ll be utterly awestruck.
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