It is clear that the DIY facility of the tape scene has fostered in London’s Jimmy Billingham a great deal of prolificacy. Having driven labels such as S.I.N.K. CDs, Sunk Series, and now Indole Records, and procured tapes under monikers as various as Tidal and HOLOVR, his footprint in the scene is palpable. His body of work puts him on the map for sample-based loops and textured soundscapes, and it is under the Venn Rain alias where he is known for a more droning approach to that sound. With 2011’s standout Place In the World, the scope of its abrasive hypnagogic layers gradually deepens into a tantalizing array of synths muddied in a fuzz and pastel fog. Three years later, Billingham had moved from Tranquility Tapes to his own S.I.N.K. CDs, and thus from tape format to CD.
S.I.N.K.’s 2014 release Rhizome Riverbed retains the indigenous low fidelity of the artist’s roots, but subjugates much of the swirling synths of Place In the World to underbelly the more prominent use of rhythmic samples. Tribal percussion and muffled spoken word mesh with field recordings of gushing water and screeching wheels alike, usually with a synth or reed melody nuanced into the mix. In the case of the 16-minute opener, these layers culminate into bustling levels of dissonance and static, but never of a harsh noise tenor. Though it doesn’t reach the level of effervescent daydreaminess as, say, 2011’s “Held Meld”, it does suit a more overtly surreal preference in its collage-like aesthetic, as reflected in the album’s artwork. All new to the Venn Rain diagram (punintentional) is live instrumentation, which most notably manifests in the form of faded hand-drums and rattles, adding a sense of percussion and earthliness to the repetitive builds-ups. These only make presence in a few of the tracks, so you can still take your pick from some of the more formless cuts on the album, should you find the newfound rhythm immersion-breaking.