Last year, Dave Henson debuted the CHXFX guise on Exoferric/Latent Acid, a split cassette with Ekoplekz, who appeared as PLKZFX. Unlike his releases for Werk and Ramp as Nochexxx, the record found him working in beatless territory, heightening the Radiophonic influence that previously peppered his productions. Its tracks uncoiled with a kind of alien hostility, and suggested the sorts of caustic zones conjured by Drexciya and Conrad Schnitzler. The Unhaptic Synthesizer, Henson’s follow-up cassette for Further, continues those themes.
The new record’s track lengths are noticeably shorter than those on the split, resulting in an easier listen for the casually curious. Henson’s themes here are more playful, too. The corkscrew arpeggios of the opening track may descend into grungy overdrive, but they’re prefaced by a cheery woman introducing her synthesizer (“He’s okay!” she says). This playful experimentalism runs throughout the record, on tracks like “Muscle Cars,” or the vertiginous but wide-eyed arpeggios of “Star Torrenter.”
It isn’t all so lighthearted, however. “Bewailing Voltage” could be the theme to a deranged B-movie, while “The Great False Burn” sounds like a synthesizer crankily (and imprecisely) imitating rockabilly motifs. “The Disjected Modular” features astral arpeggiations that call to mind recent Bee Mask productions. Between these more defined pieces are a series of brief, generally unsettling tracks that sit firmly in line with the artist’s more gnarled tendencies.
By and large, The Unhaptic Synthesizer lives up to its title. It’s a collection of feral sounds in frequent disarray, with Henson alternately reveling in their chaos or trying, perhaps frantically, to tame them. He’s pretty far from the offbeat house of 2010’s “Ritalin Love,” but the embrace of quirky accidents remains.