The absurdity of synthesized sounds (and humans) has been the focal point of many of my favorite albums of the past half-decade, and the intense focus that albums like R Plus Seven or Quarantine put on chintz and kitsch has only heightened the bar for self-awareness in musical performance. Irony is a theater of misdirection, and employing campy instrumentation is a tool used by some of its greatest actors of the past few years.
“Water Qualm” comes from Kevin Carey, a Chicago-based artist who crafts amorphous liquid rhythms out of industrial soundscapes, like a manufacturing plant melted down into a metallic lake. Shattered glass slices through pan pipes and a rolling, pulsating bass, the mechanized, clattering rhythm approaching something like Vektroid on poppers. Listen closely and you can hear gasps of breath, voices singing microsecond melodies, and a “Drop It Like It’s Hot” sample. It’s an understatement to call “Water Qualm” a journey. It feels more like a DMT trip—deceptively brief but monumentally affecting.