Polyamorous? Part 1
After the 7+ albums that Polymorph released in 2019, it’s no surprise that he has continued his relentless aural bombardment throughout 2020. Despite a slew of EPs and Singles, Tenuous Phenomena is the only full length album from Bryar Herrick, AKA Polymorph, this year (so far. There are still a few month’s left, so anything is possible). Bryar has birthed yet another litter of drum and bass puppies. Cute and cuddly as these songs are, they already have teeth and claws, so beware!
I first stumbled across Polymorph on a group for Whatcom County Electronic Musicians. This group is fantastic for the radio version of Knowhereland because I can connect directly with the artists in my area, of all ranges of experience and access. Strangely enough, no one besides Bryar really hits me up with their new tracks so I have made it a point to play at least one Polymorph song every show. With their prolixity and consistent quality, not to mention their freshness, I never have to repeat a song (unless it’s Videodrome or birdy!). The last thing I want to say before tackling the album is that Polymorph is a multimedia experience. Many of the songs have video-collage accompaniment featuring many of my clips from my favorite movies.
Okay. First, Tenuous Phenomena is like Polymorph’s other releases in the sense that it is mostly Drum and Bass with plenty of high hat trills and modulating detuned synth. Samples elbow their way to the forefront, uncannily familiar and drenched in effects. One of my favorite cuts, “untitled,” stands out with a pumping drum line and moody synthwave pads. A twinkling arpeggio flies down the deserted street of a dying metropolis and pulls up to a balcony. A robot gets exits the vehicle.
Sometimes I feel unqualified to write about artists who belong to such vast genres like Drum & Bass. It’s not exactly my wheelhouse, but some of my favorite musicians dabble in it and I have seen the depth of its spectrum. For me to compare Tenuous Phenomena to Squarepusher’s new Be Up a Hello, would be in the same ocean, but on completely different beaches. In this latest release there is almost more in common with the dark fringe of EDM, like Sweet Valley or Sharp Veins. There is much more urgency in Polymorph’s breaks. There is a relentless pulse that hails back to the heyday of rave music, but is punctuated by a punk nonchalance that comes from producing dance music in the cold void of the Pacific Northwest. The point where “track nine” drops into a flat hiphop break for a few bars before rushing back to the original frantic bpm is indicative of the kind of swagger one finds programmed all over this album in spades and diamonds.
Stand out jams are the updated version of “tee bee controller,” “lung butter” and “untitled.”