A collaboration between Robert Andrew Scott and Jacen Kemp, Flatline Skyline is a strange little flower growing in the noisy wasteland of Mechanoise Labs' discography. Known for more sonically challenging releases (noise, dark beat and experimental ambient), Mechanoise Labs has scraped back the surface layer of static to allow a little electro-pop record to bloom. Flatline Skyline is built upon a foundation of digital noises and synth-pop melodies, but the strange uniqueness of this release is the presence of Kemp's vocals.
Sounding like a lab-grown child of Marc Almond and David J, Kemp's laconic delivery is straight out of the opium darkness of the late Romantic poets, a hazy intonation that is filled with disembodied separation, lending a cold gravitas to the music. The melancholia of Horizon Grid is darkened by the preternatural ruin of a broke-down civilization that hisses and crackles in the background. "Flatline Skyline" warps with static and machine noise while the drum loops creak beneath the slow sink of Kemp's vocals. "It's just another scar on the atmosphere," he sings, relating the broken pieces of the relationship to the noisy detritus of modern machine living. Massive drums break through the bleak gothic atmosphere of "Riots in the Bloodstream," an aural assault that brings with it the shriek of metallic birds while Kemp intones his funereal lament. "Three Winter Months" grows from a sea of static, rising up on columns of glittering tones, and Kemp sighs with the secrets suspended in the fluids of modern machine age living: "We are your destiny/Your mirror-world machinery/We are not real, we are what you feel."
"Bulletproof Bones" chirps and shimmers with molecular life, the echo of metal plates being rung and the precise percussion of a drum machine while Scott croons (the single time he takes the lead on vocals) about the demise of the organic body: "Pipework metal plastic foam, shatter all things made of bone." "Tension," the only instrumental track on the record, vibrates with sanitarium-style menance, like a group of escaped prisoners banging on pipes and working satanic forges deep beneath the surface of the asylum.
Horizon Grid is Romantic mood poetry for the children of the Machine Age, caustic and razored heartbreak for the boys and girls with static in their eyes. It's a departure for Mechanoise Labs and succeeds wildly because it holds nothing back: Scott and Kemp have pulled back the metal casements from their hearts and are letting us see how all the pumps and valves work. Very nice.