The stirring of a static filled, digital breeze drowns out barely audible words while an ominous synth whines. A rolling beat builds in intensity as though there's something making its way toward you with haste. Then a harsh, Electro rhythm thunders forward and strained, dual vocals scream out about the "skeleton of somebody's house in the tangles of a tree." Scathing noises are softened slightly by strings before the whole song seems to melt into a sinister dusk.
That is how Flatline Skyline introduces its second album, coming four years after the debut, Horizon Grid. This time out Robert Andrew Scott and Jacen Kemp are focusing more on restlessness and instability which lies in stark contrast to the more plaintive ambiance listeners may recall. Regardless of the approach they take this duo makes music that defies categorization and provides listeners with a challenging performance that is ever changing. In spite of the lengthy hiatus they are prepared to return with at least four albums of varying material that will keep fans on their toes. All Sound / No Vision is the first entry into their ongoing series and it's a charged effort featuring percussive fury that might give an act such as Babyland pause counterbalanced with extended forays into atmospheric experimentation.
While there's plenty of noise generated over the course of forty-five minutes there are always undercurrents of melody present softening the jagged edges of what would otherwise be a difficult journey to take. "Other Dreams" buzzes for four minutes with monotone vocals and an understated tunefulness but the track remains unresolved at the end, asserting minimalism in the face of uncertainty. "Fox Fight" takes a diametric approach with clanging percussion and traditional, Indie Rock songwriting elements, including a fairly standard vocal melody which is juxtaposed by ringing synths and occasional bursts of distortion. There's a tug-of-war evident in many of these songs between the well-traversed and the deliciously avant garde.
While a song like "No Dial Tone" brings to mind the feedback-drenched noise of Medicine's Brad Laner, particularly in its closing moments, "Fearful Symmetry" is more akin to the melted Darkwave of Lovesliescrushing. The last half of the album passes by rather quickly with shorter compositions and an occasionally aggressive stance. "Be Good To Them Always" is an especially tantalizing treat with an ever changing beat, desperate vocals and a high degree of layering that builds on a rush then seems to implode in on itself.
After a couple tracks which embrace a more ambient tone the album closes with the lengthy "One Secret" which spends a whopping six minutes and fifty seconds laying out droning, beatless sheets of despair. All Sound / No Vision isn't going to appeal to a wide audience but it does strike the listener as being a sort of alternative to the standard even while retaining elements of familiarity. If you can get into the unpredictable Industrial of an act like genCAB and appreciate the atmospheric experimentation of Dead Voices On Air than this will probably appeal to you.