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Sam Waks, better known as Sound Strider, has been tinkering with sonic manipulation since the early 2000s. Back then, he cut his teeth mixing vinyl in all kinds of contexts. Since establishing Sound Strider in 2013, he’s toured across Europe, performing alongside notable names like Boon Shankar and Masterminded. The depth of his experience has manifested his own signature sound. A sound utilising complex textural work and a wildly diverse selection of instruments.
With this adventurous, multi-faceted 4-track EP, entitled ‘Occult Electric’, he has created a pioneering feat of modern electronica. These are new heights for Waks, who has bounded a subject of deep intellectual interest to his tunes, forming a complete artistic statement.
“This release explores my relationship with chaos magic and the occult,” says Waks. “In some sense it is about the search for a new way of being unbounded by the strict codes of monotheistic religion and/or scientific materialism.”
‘Helpless Cogs’ starts us off with synths that climb and fall, while ethereal vocals weave in and out. Lyrically, the track explores darker elements of the human psyche. Polyrhythmic beats and eerie harmonics follow, constructing a supernatural soundscape of shamanistic activity.
‘Hail Eris’ is a steady descent built on cavernous, blunted synths and interspersed drum and bass. The grinding bottom beats mix with scratchy highs, producing classic, groovy trap. Spoken word samples with messages of boundary dissolution and even worship of a pagan god of chaos (“All hail Discordia…”) appear throughout. Quite fitting considering Waks’s decision to never let the track settle on a theme, leaving an inherent uneasiness sitting in the listener’s ears.
‘A Plague of Wizards’ melds crunchy industrial percussion with whacked out, spacey key sweeps. Over six minutes, Waks meticulously tempers more and more complexity into the mix. Finally, the track culminates in a kind-of sensory overload with a dozen competing concepts.
Album closer, ‘Embracing Chaos’, is an alternatively meditative, experimental, and chaotic track, carrying the concluding message of the album. As we draw to a close, Waks encourages us to “always put a question mark after the world ‘reality’”. Ornamentation in the form of ethnic instruments from east Asia careen across the mix, while glitch-heavy beats churn and grind the path forward. The piece borders on the description of sound collage at some points, never allowing an idea to get too comfortable.
‘Accessible’ does not describe this release, but for those open to a challenging listen, buried in abstraction and conceptually dense themes, Sound Strider is a must.