Gel Set - Human Salad

by Rich Morris Rating:4 Release Date:2015-07-12

Gel Set’s debut is kind of like a minimalist, cosmic, hi-NRG, electroclash death-fest. And yet, somehow, is also much less than all of that.

Human Salad consists almost entirely of an extremely reductive mix of hissing, clicking beats, sudden attacks of blocky synth, spooky atmospherics, and Laura Callier’s always distant, echoy, whispered vocals. Think Glass Candy if they’d been listening to naught but Thobbing Gristle’s ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’ and ‘United’ rather than cosmic disco comps.

This works well on early tracks such as ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’ and ‘Where Were You Then’, when you’re still trying to get the hang of Callier’s elusive production, but by the time you reach the album’s mid-point, the music’s Stalinist palette and the almost total absence of any discernable melodies means that everything has just become a long, grey smudge. Add to this Callier’s increasingly irritating vocal non-style – basically mumbling stuff in the background of every track like a woman trying to memorise a shopping list – and, well, you start to feel Human Salad has outstayed its welcome long before its end-time.

Even when she gets the music right, Callier has a way of shooting herself in the foot. I’m sure the trapped-nerve jangle and nervous-twitch beat of ‘Predator or Prey’ are supposed to evoke danger and darkness, but any edginess is fatally mitigated by the way she simpers “Are you predator or prey?” like she's auditioning for a third Alien vs Predator film. Likewise, the spooky ambience of ‘The Basement’ has no chance of actually doing its job when Callier insists on calling out “Hello? Is anybody there?” intermittently with all the passion of slasher-flick fodder on mogadon.

We’re swimming in the shallows here, people. A shame, because the relentless lo-fi glitch of closing track ‘Ether Or’, reminiscent of Alec Empire at his best, shows what Human Salad might have been like with a bit more energy, a few more tunes, and substantially fewer vocal contributions. 

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