20 Sep 2020

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The Sixteenth - EP Review: The 16th EP

22 Aug 2020 // A review by Peter-James Dries

When you work as a data quality analyst, you need something to unwind. I chose animation.

But I didn’t realise when I started out that animating is one of those manual repetitive tasks, like stocking shelves or working on a production line. Like data quality audits.

It can be taxing at times, and mind-numbing. You need a soundtrack to keep your mind engaged, lest you fall asleep to the rhythm of the mouse clicks.

This week I tried animating to the sound of The Sixteenth’s semi-eponymous EP, The 16th, and the smooth unobtrusive driving beat has proven to be quite conducive to vector shaping. Their four short evocations of bundled feelings and emotions were enough to ward off the numbness, while never breaking through my concentration with unexpected sharp edges.

Perhaps it’s because the EP feels like a collection of movie soundtracks. Most prominently, the first track Afterglow, which sounds like the theme song to a lost 70’s Bond film, shelved because the executives thought the scenes in outer space were too similar to Moonraker. It’s all funk, trumpets, and lunar orbits with the vocals fading in and out of focus.

Beginning with crows and church bells, Killing Time grows slowly, layer by layer, into a trip-hop tour of the pre-industrial English countryside. Pride and Prejudice and UFOs. With the sweet, yet sombre vocals, and the string sections, this is the most emotive piece on a pretty emotive album, and my personal favourite.

Oxygen takes those textures, and expands on them, adding dubby brass sections and a strutting bassline to create a darker, edgier mood. It’s the most dynamic of the songs, starting with subtle shredding guitar lick under strings and vinyl artifacts. It slowly builds into a busy, harnessed chaos before fading out into the hand drums of the false ending.

Optimus is the most real sounding of the tracks. It’s almost as if the world has been stripped of technology, and we’re standing on bare earth, beneath the sun, listening to a live band. The final celebration of life as we know it, before it’s gone for good.

With Miriam Alice’s voice ebbing and flowing over Richard Walley’s clip-hop textures and melodies, The Sixteenth’s sound feels like a mesh of organic and digital, a mix of old world and new. Like they’ve captured the heart and soul of a live funk performance within the confines of a constructed reality to create a soundscape that captures humanity’s past and future simultaneously. Familiar, yet unique.

Five stars.

You can find the aural experience on Spotify, and the visual on YouTube. I’d recommend tracking down the vinyl when it’s released though. Their soundscapes are filled with a richness, depth and warmth that the analogue format will bring out in a way Spotify never will. You can find the vinyl on Bandcamp.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About The Sixteenth

The Sixteenth create vast post-apocalyptic sounds from the mind of Richard Walley (progamming/keys/production) with core collaborator Miriam Alice (vocals) and are known for their vast soundscapes, crafted textural instrumentation and stunning melodies.

The group was formed in the mid 2010’s to perform a set of Walley’s compositions. A live line up toured and they realised there were deep pockets of inspiration in the collaboration. The incisive expertise of Ali Isdale (bass & audio engineer), and Louis Thompson-Munn (keys) fed the hungry machine and with Walley’s extensive library of rare records underarm, the collective embarked on a unique sonic journey hoping to capture their experience and add some new vinyl to the library.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Sixteenth


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