Alfur, Old Apparatus’s third release in three months, finds production duties handed to member A. Levitas. Exactly how many people make up the East London electronic collective is unknown, but it’s clear that Levitas sees a lot more light in the group’s corroded world than member LTO, who marshaled last month’s Realise. Whereas that EP and the collaborative Derren were inventive, dark, and brooding, Alfur buzzes with optimism while maintaining the spikiness of its predecessors.
From its familiar-sounding white-noise intro, Alfur quickly becomes more energized and immediate than Old Apparatus’s last two EPs. The bulk of the tracks here feel like compensation for the raggedness of the previous releases: “Schwee” is the closest to conventional dubstep Old Apparatus has gotten, with an aggressive bassline that could have been lifted from a Skrillex track. The melody gets boosted to the point of distortion, fighting against chants and clouds of static. On “Coalapps,” the mood gets sunnier as waves of harpsichord intertwine with shimmering pads, creating a warm vibe that Levitas underscores with gently lolling sirens.
Alfur‘s achievement isn’t that it represents a shift in tone for Old Apparatus, but that Levitas is able to indulge his ideas without compromising his group’s established rough-hewn sound. Levitas acknowledges the gloom of the last two EPs, tweaking the Old Apparatus formula and bending it in a new direction. This can be best heard on standout “Cauliroot,” where rain and wind chimes give way to hissing, sliding beats, and vocals that rise in and out of plucked piano strings, a fog of bass behind them. It plays brilliantly to the group’s strengths and blends a club-ready rhythm with clanging metal tubes and wildlife sounds. The concluding “Lingle” eases us back into the darkness by playing a deep, cinematic bassline over vibrating planks. The EP completes this third entry in Old Apparatus’s unbroken run of unique, immersive electronica.