Onixonst: “Criminal Damage” – varying patterns of electronic mutation

Music producer Onixonst – a law student from Newcastle, England – churns out electronic albums with the regularity of an industrial production plant. Each one diverse in intention, execution and flavor. Accessible enough that you won’t get weird looks from your friends but varied and experimental enough to keep you listening for a long, long time. On “Criminal Damage”, Onixonst successfully mixes IDM beats with strange and eerie synths to create a unique experience. The music comes off as spacey, dark, but energetic as well. Keep in mind that this album isn’t completely ambient. This isn’t the droning music to fall asleep to. While it has elements of ambient, it also contains many rock and industrial beats and it’s this that will keep your head bobbing.

Structurally, the songs on “Criminal Damage” are actually closer to the type of thing that Aphex Twin might do on his day off from work, while chatting to The Prodigy. They are a mix of brisk compositions, together with longer epic ones that can go up to sixteen plus minutes.

These lengths may seem intimidating at first but with time you will come to enjoy it. Each of the songs have layers and layers of melody and rhythm, and this album offers the richest ranges from Onixonst yet. This certain complex quality in the music I believe is the reason why many people will enjoy this album, and can keep on enjoying it over the years.

Every single song on this album is good. There are no super hooks like some of the songs on certain Onixonst albums, but the songs here are definitely stir up emotions and paint vivid imagery, which is really the point on this recording. Some people may be confused at why Onixonst sounds so different, when it seems logical to me.

Onixonst writes the music to sound ‘real’ and then uses diversely textured ‘unreal’ sounds to layer the music into genius. The result is a landscape of sounds going in and out of your head, swirling around and around, again and again. Until eventually you are no longer just hearing the music…you are actually seeing it.

If you’re not a believer in electronica as a true art form, this may be what changes your mind. Emotions in music seem to be an almost lost cause in modern times. Most artists let the machines do all of the work and produce cold, repetitive music that inspires no feelings but the ones to get up and dance.

This is what “The Invisible Cyberpunk” might induce you to believe, until you move on to the poignant slow churn of “From Time Immemorial” and the even eerier, and slower, “The Whitechapel Murderer”. And if you’ve fallen into a catatonic trance by this stage, the upbeat and rhythmically odd “Incendiary”, will hold your attention for all of 9 minutes.

Passing through “Condition In Utero” and “Barrel Through Sensation”, we arrive at another standout – “The Singularity Hommen” – with its dynamic offbeat. “Gibbons and Proctor” probably has the cutest melodic motifs on the album, which Onixonst, promptly and deliberately smashes to smithereens with a set of loudly banging hip-hop drums, and a descending bassline.

“The Eternal Centaurians” presents yet another album highlight, but it’s “Solipsistic Heasenberg” which is more creatively compelling with its ever-changing rhythms and tones. The songs on “Criminal Damage” are constructed to varying patterns of mutation that persists more or less throughout the recording. This grants the album its uncanny integrity.

Each track typically proceeds in a cumulative fashion, establishing a central motif around which successive layers are then added. As new elements enter in, others recede into the background or fade entirely, only to reappear in fresh combinations later in the song. Savor it on both “Primum Movens” and the epic “Found Machinery Modicum, The Neutrino Comet Symphony”.

Every part simulates the whole to which it belongs, similar in this way to a fractal. Onixonst weaves these constituent parts in together in an arching ebb and flow along a radiating grid whose distended contours are stretched by constant digital processing.


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