The London based production duo Habitual Sickness (also known as Stephen Bailey) has been producing records for almost a decade, and their debut LP is a very welcome return. The title is loosely translated from a Chinese doctor performing a ritual on a woman, and the seven tracks here are suffused with experimental choruses, spooky drone pieces and a sweeping electric guitar solo from drummer at the project.
The production on the album is done by Taishiqi, an experimental electronic sound installation and sound artist based in Tokyo, and the music is very much of a piece with the installation. The album is entirely digital, and the first half of the album is a drone piece, but it’s the second half that’s most compelling: “Power” is a heavy drone with throbbing bass, and “Enslave” is a heavily saturated disco track with an eerie melody. “The Fall” starts as a drone piece that’s even more typical of Habitual Sickness’s output, but it’s a brief appearance, and it’s only when the more traditional tracks of “Chrono” and “Agnosis” are joined by the more conventional “Habitual Sickness’s Planet” by pianist Nkisi, and the trippy “In” by keyboardist Peter McGuire that the album really takes off.
Nkisi’s piano tracks “Chrono” and “Agnosis” are both accompanied by a wide array of choral and electric instruments, and the latter opens the album with a sample of a man writing a letter to the editor, while the choral notes on “In” are reminiscent of the music of the Virgin Islands. The piano sings “The Big Dandelion” while McGuire and McGuire’s electric guitar tease out a slow build to “The Moon Is Rising”; “The Night Sky” is a striking drone piece with a distinctive timbre and a pulsing electric guitar solo.
The sound of the album is built around a set of pulsing, arpeggiated chords, but it’s the first track “White Noise” that tells you the full story. The piano chords are layered with synths, and it’s a fascinating listen. It’s an oddly atmospheric piece, and has a distinct, nervy quality that suggests the work of a moving dream.