3 out of 5
Label: Central Processing Unit
Produced by: Kevin McHugh
There are killer moments all over LA-4A’s Slackline; Kevin McHugh, operating under this particular nom de guerre, is apparently a relative genre heavyweight, offering serious and notable releases under different aliases, with LA-4A being an outlet for something more playful. Without awareness of his other work beyond reading about it, I can’t say if that’s completely accurate, but it sort of matches up with a veneer of artifice that underlines the listen, which prevents any track from really taking off the way they seem like they should.
Take our pair of openers – the title track and ‘Punishment.’ I was crazy hyped when Slackline started, as it was a whirlagig of Aphex styles from On through Windowlicker, underlined by an 808-style raw beat. It builds and builds fantastically, but somewhere during its six+ minutes, it feels like it goes into autopilot mode; McHugh having fun with his sounds without being mindful of the track. Similarly, the aptly named Punishment focuses on a devastatingly hefty, grimy beat – including a breakdown where it’s just that distorted beat, and it’s phenomenal – but trails out this vibe for too long to maintain the same intensity.
Creased is a standout, working in a more modern IDM vein (akin to CPUs sensibilities) but successfully building on a cascading synth line for its entire runtime, layering and letting beats ride out just long enough before adding in another element, but the concluding Vague Complaint falls back to the half-committed vibes of the starting tracks, copping Punishment’s flair for harshness with an appealingly crunchy beat.
Strip any of these cuts down to half their runtime, and they’re spot on genius. As is, you end up tuning out toward the tail end of any given track, making the listen fall into the background when there’s actually a substantial amount of awesomeness here.