Emptyset composes within a complex set of self-imposed parameters and the results as evinced on Borders, their new LP out now on Thrill Jockey, are at once minimal and visceral. From the very first track one can hear the physicality the instruments have imbued in the sound’s texture. In tracks such as “Border” and “Speak”, Emptyset uses basic rhythmic structures drawn from an array of broad cultural practices, expressed neutrally and without overemphasis on the source. As Empytset’s Paul Purgas in an interview for The Quietus explains:
We were looking at certain non-Western musical settings and thinking about that structure of, quite literally, drums and strings. Within an Indian context that’d be like the tabla and the sitar, or you can go back far further in an anthropological sense. It was useful for us to think about that very reduced way of making music.
Focusing on shifting timbral changes over melody, Emptyset’s work is a true exploration of the relationship between rhythm, texture and space. The critical reception to Borders has been phenomenal:
Treblezine: What Emptyset does is perhaps more art than entertainment—they mold recorded sound into weaponry, sharpening the edges and wrapping them in muddied and bloodied armor. There are beats, and maybe on a very primitive level there are melodies, but the heart of what Emptyset does is manipulate sound itself. […] Emptyset evades easy categorization or consumption, their strength is in building percussive, buzzing elements into pieces of their own.
Tiny Mix Tapes: For a band that defines their sound through heavy constraints, Emptyset always manages to produce something exciting and new.
RA (3.6/5): Once it pulls you into its core, its dissonant sound becomes comforting, and then cathartic. In evoking confusion as to where man ends and machine begins, Borders offers a musical interpretation of a very modern dilemma.
AllMusic (4/5): The music is never less than tense and bracing, but it retains a hypnotic power. Completely dispensing with the conventions of dance music and embracing techniques more in tune with natural human rhythms, Emptyset have created one of their most unique works yet.
Pitchfork (7.4): Emptyset are in a class by themselves when it comes to excavating brutality out of silence.
Exclaim (8/10): Coming across as a viscera-churning blast of pure sub-bass propulsion, Borders demonstrates that while Emptyset’s methods may have morphed, their madness is still intact.
Taken as a whole Borders distills the duo’s inspirations to their essence and the resulting music is a raw as it is captivating, creating a perfect balance with a sound that creates a new definition of distortion. As stated by Emptyset’s James Ginzburg:
Distortion represents something that is in quite complicated relationship to the source sound, and depending on the circuit it has a life of its own and a complexity you couldn’t contrive. It’s a perfect tool for us. I guess there’s a poetic analogy between these relationships between order and chaos… and orderly chaos.
Now booking site-specific live A/V shows: brandon [at] lb-agency.net