I never felt such emotion™



Liam Murphy

January 29, 2023

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

A retrospective deconstruction of retro media that burns the skin with biting synth textures and chaotic arrangement

Depreciation is one of the hardest sounds to imbue in electronic music. In an age of pristine plug-ins and an unyielding search for cleanliness in pop and some dance music, those who whittle away at sounds in order to break them down have a difficult task, but the results are often special and should be revered. 

For instance, ACTIVE PRESENCE’s I never felt such emotion™ sounds as if a selection of garish jewellery has had a vat of acid dumped onto it. Tracks like such emotion and way back home have a unique pearlescence to them, a beautiful shimmer corrupted somewhat by a fizzling, toxic agent. 

The sound is often offensive, but charming as well, like if Back to the Future was remade as a grimy 90s melt movie. Imagine those classic characters and time-travelling japes covered in some viscous sludge. The sharp head over heels is a great example of this. With resonant synths begging to glide off into a dramatic 80s refrain, held down by goofy percussion and bubbly bass stabs as well. The slick coolness of the melody line disappears and reemerges now and again as the caustic gloop of ACTIVE PRESENCE’s percussion becomes the focal point.

be there opts for a more cutesy aesthetic, synth notes clamber like little creatures moving playfully in a pool of thick neon-green slime. As instrumentation returns after a short break renewed and invigorated, the artist injects a punk-ish bassline. There’s a real sense of kitsch 80s nostalgia here, a feeling of pure emotion mixed with strange and slightly comedic retro technology. One of the most impressive aspects is the control ACTIVE PRESENCE wields, despite the somewhat acrid style taken throughout the album, exemplified in  sharp pauses that make way for clean, didactic guitar chords.

When it comes to a retro sound, the one is certainly a front runner. Scattering shards of arpeggiation emerge from underneath a yearning synth lead melody. Add to this an awkward chorus-ridden guitar straight from some early EP of a band dressed in all black with spiked hair and white make-up. There’s a contrast, the emotive and gothic styles of the 80s colliding with more colourful maximalist media that dazzled with – what were then – cutting-edge effects. And again, through all this context, a truly entertaining song lies at its heart. 

I never felt such emotion™ can shirk a comfortable listen. Its acerbic textures can rub against a more traditional listener and at times its structure threatens to cave in completely and turn into a sludge-y mess billowing acrid smoke. But ACTIVE PRESENCE captures this special moment before the synths and percussion succumb to the murk, allowing listeners to see the beauty in a coagulating mess of pre-millennium nostalgia and hypnagogic melodies.