Middex – Perpetual Skip [Outer Reaches]

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With Perpetual Skip Kevin Hendrick aka Middex devises a bricolage of oblique minimal synth and dislocated industrial electronics. Across a ten-track sprawl of crude, serrated tones, convulsive signals, pneumatic drum machines, and granular environmental noise, Middex adds reverberant sprechgesang and spoken word soliloquies that contend with the prosaic minutiae and contorted resonances of contemporary existence.  In this Hendrick articulates an elusive poetics of elliptical, sardonic implication; a voice in the rubble, salvaging the refuse. Tracing the lineaments of marginality, alienation, and futility, Perpetual Skip retrieves what meaning – if any – can be found in the eponymous Skip, creating an unremitting space in which to reconsider the significance of the discarded.

Originally from Middlesex and now based in East London, Hendrick inaugurated the Middex project in 2015, following stints in post-punk groups including Male Bonding and Primitive Parts. More recently, Hendrick has joined the ranks of punk outfit Adulkt Life, while focusing predominantly on solo material.

After releasing a series of discretely incendiary cassettes and one-off 7″s for The Tapeworm and Polytechnic Youth, Middex unveiled the project’s debut album ‘No Home’ in 2018, before returning to The Tapeworm in 2019 for the cavernous minimalism of Scrutiny, a cassette of deconstructive solo works and collaborative experiments featuring Lindsay Corstorphine (Sauna Youth, Monotony, Oblate)

In many ways Scrutiny signalled a transition, from the scolding tape fidelities and mordant spoken word of earlier material to the surgical machine gristle, dubwise recurrence and edgeland monologues of the project’s recent output. In the last few years this material has encompassed a limited 7″ release on Polytechnic Youth, comprising two solo productions from the Scrutiny recordings, a collaborative contribution to the Infant Tree compilation I Don’t Want To Be Dug Up From The Wet Earth Anymore, alongside Malvern Brume, and the 2021 album Let the Engine-Loud Apocalypse Play Havoc with your Soul, a self-release on Hendrick’s own Demotic Brick imprint.

Perpetual Skip represents the aesthetic culmination of this industrious period of activity, the first full length vinyl release from Middex since No Home. Arguably, Perpetual Skip is the pinnacle of what Middex has produced up to this point. An album where the interplay between the scrapheap concretions and skewed, enigmatic vernacular of the project reaches an assured – if volatile – sense of cohesion.

Here, quotidian imagery is distorted beyond conventional recognition and imbued with curious undertones. Middex voices an anarchic dialogue matched by a disorderly counterpoint of primitive composition and atmospheric interference. Metallic clatter, automotive rhythms, the sound of sirens, drills, birds, and incidental conversations. Against this backdrop, a cracked narrative of the strange and the mundane unfolds; a territory of sentient sewage, symbolic cigarette butts, twisted girders, and enclosed non-place(s). The stomping ground of the exiled and estranged, a microcosm of modern malaise.

This disjointed vocal assemblage has a lifespan that precedes this release. In 2020 the independent publisher Makina Books put out a booklet edition of ‘Perpetual Skip’, a collection of eleven prose poems which demonstrated the formal autonomy of these verses. The booklet was subsequently selected for inclusion in the UK’s National Poetry Library. With the album edition of ‘Perpetual Skip’ these words are reunited with corresponding sounds of discord and disruption, no longer orphaned from the noise.

Together, the sounds and words of Perpetual Skip create a vivid terrain, from the assaultive morass of Skinheads on a Raft – if Whitehouse lightened up a bit and found donk – to the furtive, irregular anthemics of Spirit Shutdown where sunken pulses, perforating static and strains of toylike instrumentation suggest a vision of club music for the malcontented.

There are moments of suspension too. Denuded, bilingual intonations – featuring contributions from Akiko Matsuura (PRE) – set out a stark scene on Sent to Work before punishing, heavy-duty drumbeats and intermissions of construction site activity take hold. As with much of Perpetual Skip, the imagery is striking, as the finer details of a built environment become a perverse source of existential comfort: On relaxing rubble and soothing window frame, splinters stab a heavenly pain. On shattered bricks the crumbs of which sweeten up the skin…Bring up to the chin the freshly laundered sheet of leaded glass.

Throughout, Middex moves between abrasive materiality and amorphous disarrangement. Contact and collapse. Delirious atonalities and barrelling drum salvos fill Basement, while locked drum machine rhythms, oscillating alarm signals and tremulous ringtones coalesce on Palm Is Alive in a Hand That Can Crush, in an overcast vision of technological disturbance.

Suitably, for a record that explores the significance of liminality and detritus, the closing stages describe the end of the line. Routes end on Glue Preference in a vast terminal of hollow detonation and jagged frequency, and on Amen Then Middex threads together processed hymnals, descending drones, and metronomic minimalism, in a profane prayer that offers an acerbic take on social hierarchy.

Epitomizing the resistant scope of the Middex project, Perpetual Skip is a resolutely DIY conception, a document of raw performance, wayward discourse and found recordings, poised somewhere between skeletal minimal synth, asymmetric industrial music, homespun sound art, and outsider poetics. At different junctures, Middex evokes the fractured, monotonal electronics of John Bender, a scaled-down take on the unflinching dissonance of early Einstürzende Neubauten – if they ran aground in a nondescript London borough – and even recalls semblances of the aleatory, bric-a-brac emanations and dry spoken word observations of Adam Bohman.

For all that, Perpetual Skip illustrates indeterminate qualities and is difficult to classify, an album situated in a peripheral zone of its own. Rather than resembling mere imitation and retrospection – a case of playing potluck with a few canonical post-punk and industrial records – this record engages with the disarray of the here and now on its own terms.

Perpetual Skip embodies the remnants, all the material left behind. A work that corrals lambasted parts, relegated realities. If the world is a skip, then here is where to submerge. Sleep sweetly.

Release date: March 25th, 2022.

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