Pontiac Streator’s music seems deliberately engineered to confuse; it arrives without any real clues as to how it’s meant to be parsed. The pseudonymous Streator is based in Philadelphia, but his releases are conceptually detached from place. They don’t belong to Philly, or any other city, as much they belong to a particular scene. You might call it West Mineral-adjacent; flitting between styles and stage names, the loosely defined collective putting out ambient-electronic music on labels like Motion Ward and Experiences Ltd. is unified by a commitment to the intentionally obscure. It suggests that these heady sounds are more purely absorbed without the constraints of identity and specificity.
This elusive M.O. works on the level of Streator’s discography, too. 11 Items, Streator’s 2019 collaboration with Ulla Straus, handled a dizzying breadth of textures, from slippery, percussive rumblings (“Item 3”) to a sort of sleek, postmodern TV performance, complete with samples of a live studio audience (“Item 7”). The projects Streator has already put out this year range from punishing cybergrind and noise (virtualdemonlaxative) to restless, tongue-in-cheek ambient (Micro Incubus) to more amorphous chill-out music (Select Works . vol 1). All of it is uniquely stubborn, resisting interpretation at every turn.
Streator’s new solo album Triz is just as confounding as these past works, but offers a deeper, buzzier high. The density is part of the appeal; with repeated listens, the record’s intricate mixes yield new surprises. “Post Los” is a burbling mass of unplaceable, vaguely organic sounds, as indebted to the alien dialogue in District 9 as to the effects of Space Cadet 3D Pinball. “Lamp Fest,” another feat of layering, is roomier, and nearly tropical—as close to restful as the album comes, while still managing to sustain the spell.
Though there are no lead vocal parts on Triz, the album is haunted by voices. Ghostly hums trace the contours of “Transier Unt”—a chilly fractal of ambient electronics—while “Trizlang Gem” rests on soft choral figures. “Om Ne Ud” recalls Loscil’s aquatic concept record Submers, but the textures here are busier and more tightly knit; studded with blips that feel a little like sonar, the track bleeds periodically into lo-fi radio crackle—transmissions of what sounds like a human voice, its message hopelessly scrambled. On “Angelus Spit,” which invites similarly garbled vocal fragments into an emptier tableau, those corrupted blasts feel like a taunt. The truth echoes out there, Streator hints: It would offer some resolution, if only we had the tools to decode it.
The breakdown of communication and perception is at the heart of the final track, “Stuck in a Cave.” The production is sticky and humid, embellished with alien bird calls; what might initially scan as naturalistic is filtered to the point of feeling eerily artificial. Streator works best in the dark, in constructed interiors and glitched-out paradoxes; here, finally, the radio dispatches of “Om Ne Ud” and “Angelus Spit” crystallize into something at least perceptible, if not entirely lucid: “I’m stuck in a cave, what’s happening?” Triz is less an answer to the question than an acknowledgment that there may not be one.
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