If listening to someone like Burial evokes the feeling of very late night subway trips through London, listening to Rabit brings you closer to walking those same streets with a constant sense of dread and paranoia. The debut album from the Texas-based musician sure sounds like a London album in a lot of ways, with its tenuous echoes of grime music beefed up by a supremely unsettling approach to rhythm and percussion. Standard drums are often replaced by slightly-too-loud warped sounds, shards of pneumatic drill (as on the slightly terrifying “Fetal”), and occasionally with nothing at all.

All of it heightens the unpredictability of Communion, the aural equivalent of not knowing who or what might be around the next quiet corner. Despite all that, Rabit’s choice to ground most of the album’s songs around relatively straightforward 4/4 time signatures and simple, haunting melodic lines means that Communion never feels unpalatable. That grime influence is most felt in the relatively straight-foward banger “Burnerz.” You can imagine dancing to these songs in some slightly twisted parallel club night, even if it is likely to contort your body into some pretty strange shapes.

Rabit_Communion

Rabit operates on the edge of chaos rather than indulging himself in it. It’s why the likes of “Advent” and “Snow Leopard” at the beginning of the album act as such an effective introduction to his sound. For the album’s first half, the listener is constantly waiting for a breakdown or an explosion that never arrives, with the sounds instead dancing around the melody that often acts as the song’s real rhythm section. “Artemis” is basically held together with the duct tape of a single, repetitious human note. When we do finally hear a discernible human voice, it is the creepy poetry of “Flesh Covers The Bone” over an urgent hospital monitor and heartbeat combination.

In the alien quality of the production, Rabit recalls the work of the likes of Arca and Oneohtrix Point Never (both of whom have their own new albums arriving this month) in that categorization feels futile. Like those artists, his work can contain elements of beauty and horror in equal measure, often at the same time. He seems drawn to contrast between silence and noise, between the physical and the cerebral.

It is in the album’s second half that the heavier, more physical side of Rabit’s music finally does erupt, especially in the pounding drums of “Pandemic” and “Trapped In This Body,” which echoes label mate The Haxan Cloak at his best. Despite that, the presence of “Glass Harp Interlude” and “Burnerz” are well-timed reprieves from what feels like a subtle but relentless assault on your sense of steadiness. Most of the album is designed to leave you wrong footed.

Communion’s concise nature (its length barely drifts past the half-hour mark) means even those who are initially intimidated by the confrontational, tetchy nature of the music will not be overwhelmed by the final result. There is economy both in length and in the production, with a crispness that lends itself to both headphone listening and room-rattling subwoofers.

The album’s dalliances with more mainstream dance genres may be enough for you to open the door and come in, but it is in Communion’s dark corners that the real promise lies. That album cover feels completely appropriate. This is a Rorschach test, and you will take from it what you will.

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Rabit