Rian Treanor and Ocen James: Saccades review | Ammar Kalia's global album of the month

(Nyege Nyege Tapes)
The presence of James’ bow complements Treanor’s dense compositions, creating the latter’s most melodic and dancefloor-adjacent work to date

Within the grid-based continuum of contemporary electronic music, Rotherham producer Rian Treanor is an experimental outlier. Shunning four-to-the-floor kick drums and repetitive synth melodies, Treanor trades in squeals, shrieks and scattergun bass, stretching formulaic structures into amorphous tracks that veer between danceablity and cacophony.

The cover of Rian Treanor and Ocen James: Saccades.
The cover of Rian Treanor and Ocen James: Saccades. Photograph: Publicity image

Treanor’s influences span British computer music innovators such as Autechre, Aphex Twin, and his father, Mark Fell; his 2019 debut, Ataxia, comprised fractal, bass-heavy edits, while 2020’s File Under UK Metaplasm grew from a residency at Ugandan label Nyege Nyege’s Kampala studio, where Treanor was introduced to east African hyperspeed dance styles such as singeli and balani.

Treanor’s latest record, Saccades, continues the Nyege Nyege connection in collaboration with Ugandan folk fiddle player Ocen James. James’ one-string violin, the rigi rigi, proves the perfect accompaniment to Treanor’s plastic soundscapes, producing his most melodic and dancefloor-adjacent work to date.

The album opens with an immersion into Treanor and James’s new soundworld. Bleeding between the organic and synthetic, opening numbers Bunga Bule and As It Happens see James twisting his bow to produce animalesque shrieks that complement Treanor’s clattering polyrhythms and rolling snares. Discernible melody finally appears on The Dead Centre, with overlaid arpeggiated phrases building a gorgeous, enveloping sound from James’s single string.

After this introduction, shades of Treanor’s dancefloor aesthetic enter the frame. Agoya and Naasaccade gesture towards Ataxia’s warped techno with their multiplying kick-drum patterns and skittering melody, while Tiyo Ki thunders into breakbeats. Throughout, James’s rigi rigi is the unifying element, anchoring Tiyo Ki’s overwhelming rhythms in languorous, bowed melody, and punctuating Agoya and Naasaccade’s kick drums with staccato plucking.

James’ presence softens Treanor’s dense compositions, creating a sense of song that listeners can latch on to amid the rhythmic assault. The more you listen to Saccades, the more beguiling these layered rhythms and melodies ultimately become, producing an embodied, emotive response to an enigmatic music.

Also out this month

South African folk singer Vusi Mahlasela’s 1994 studio collaboration with singer-songwriter Norman Zulu and Swedish jazz group Jive Connection is rereleased as Face to Face (Strut Recordings). Sitting deep in a mid-tempo swing, the record is an elegant time capsule, traversing funk, reggae and euphoric melody. Palestinian singer Rasha Nahas’s falsetto creates a soulful intimacy on her gentle second album, Amrat (Cooking Vinyl). Brazilian singer Lucas Santtana releases his latest record O Paraíso (No Format), blending clave rhythms with horn fanfares to create 10 uptempo, celebratory tracks.


Ammar Kalia

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