Strategy “Chaotic Era”

Anytime Paul Dickow releases a new Strategy album, I know it’s going to be worth hearing (though I have also had a hard time pulling myself away from the Sound People tape on Beacon Sound from earlier in the year). Chaotic Era is no different. Somehow, it manages to sound exactly like its title suggests. Even within the static-infused neon melodies and repeating whirlpools, Chaotic Era feels stuck in the best possible way.

Dickow’s music as Strategy always sounds like him, but at the same time, he’s a shapeshifter. The connective tissue is important, but Dickow synthesizes so many ideas into cohesive concepts it’s easy to lose track. Chaotic Era swims in textured seas, fuzz and static hold the keys to the album’s nomenclature with the whole thing doused in glitched electronic gasoline. The title track bounds through replicating corridors, the hypnotic repeating sample a strange earworm that filters in-and-out of view. It’s the same melody for over seven minutes, yet the way Dickow is constantly moving the dial and shaping the sound makes me wish it would never move and go on forever.

Granular details matter on “The Blue and the Green.” Growling bass waves are submerged in a roiling sea of death notes and radio waves. Tuned into degrading loop cycles skittering across uneven surfaces, there’s a surprising amount of whimsy here. On the one hand, this sounds like someone drowning certain strains of ambient music in the bathtub, but on the other, it’s weirdly alluring and peaceful. Dickow pushes the extremities with the spatial fuckere of “Deleted Memory,” panning from left to right and back in dizzying fashion. The louder I play it the more convinced I’m going to come down with vertigo. Thankfully, the pummelling density of “Burner Phone” keeps me standing in one place.

As ever, Strategy delivers. Calm, static-y waters create vast expanses on closer “The Earth’s Ecstasy as the Last Fascist is Erased” that begins to crumble as the high-end frequencies become knife-edged shards. Again, the broken loops repeat to infinity and we float on viscous black clouds above the decaying landscapes. Chaotic Era distills this moment where everything comes to a head and eventually falls apart and puts it inside an LED screen scoured by dead pixels. 

Editor’s Note: Physical edition comes with a Risograph comic by Lando printed by Secret Room, Portland that looks incredible

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