Astrud Steehouder’s Opal X project is a shapeshifter and Twister is a whole universe of its own. The description on The Tapeworm site simply says “Goth ASMR Hardcore” and while I’m sure it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s also spot on. Twister opens with rain-soaked synth drones wrecking cybernetic walls in the background on “Enter Guest, You Are Moving Toward the Light.” A disembodied voice offers cryptic new age platitudes like, “Sense that you are moving toward your deepest desires. Your goals. Your values,” and “Shift toward positivity.” Combined with the density of these soundscapes, the whole thing is an ominous omen for the end of the world to come.
Steehouder has an innate sense of letting the feeling of a sonic space take control. Twister never stops moving, like a winding blackened corridor that splits into countless directions, no end in sight. Little pockets of light emerge unexpectedly, like the gleaming ambient resonance of “Coral,” one of the tape’s standout tracks. There’s a harshness creeping at the edge, but Steehouder’s vocals are entrancing, soaring as she slowly crushes our dreams in the palm of her hand. The jarring juxtaposition with “Arcade X,” one of two bits of actual arcade sounds, makes it feel like a fucked-up dream. So much of Twister is disorienting and that’s one of the tape’s biggest selling points.
Further down the rabbit hole, Opal X goes aquatic in the submerged desolation of “36th Chamber.” Cold tones swirl and drip like a death spiral sucking any light left into the dark abyss. As quickly as the zone goes black, the title track blasts quickfire beats in from the emptiness. Synth leads dance like fading ghosts, a strange chaotic respite from the bleakness before the thick oscillating walls grind back into frame on “Stacked Memory.” This section of Twister is Opal X at her shapeshifting best.
Twister comes full-circle in the harmonious creep of “7 Breaths.” A new voice flickers in from beyond, the twisting aural labyrinth finally offering an exit on shimmering synthetic timbres. It’s another hypnotic place to feel uneasy, but the harshness has subsided into a decaying softness. This isn’t the end of the ride, though, with more pulverizing bass drones coming at the end of the horizon on “Amygdala Preference Pane.” What a fantastically bonkers trip. I can’t wait to see where Astrud Steehouder takes this project next. I’m convinced she can pull off any vibe, any style she wants, and keep everyone surprised.