No doubt the appropriateness of the time in which Overrider have chosen to make their debut was planned, but it’s still worth mentioning as an exemplary case of an act applying their environment to their music. Here, we have an anonymous act who specialise in bleak electronic soundscapes designed to sound purposely cold and abstract, a fitting microcosm of the overbearing digital age if there ever was one. And while this is nothing new – especially in electronic music, where marrying experimentalism with nihilism has been done for years – something about cyc|er on a conceptual level seems to fit extremely well in that camp. The obliqueness and mystery of it all is probably the main factor, especially when the only clear picture that can be formed of Overrider is from connections to Alpha Male Tea Party and Giraffes? Giraffes!, and that unknown presence to workably complement an already solid idea is what makes cyc|er such an alluring prospect.
Even so, it goes without saying that this is an album that’ll get most of its mileage from a very specific audience at a very specific time, such is the identity that Overrider’s particular electronic sound adopts. That is to say, cyc|er serves more as a score to cybernetic destruction than any conventional listening material, and for as relatively short as it is, there’s definitely a feeling of fragmentation that’s unavoidable when treating it as such. And it is necessary to do so for what is a commercially-available release, but at the same time, there’s a creativity to how Overrider go about arranging each of their pieces that makes this album stand out. For as niche as it is, and for as flawed even within that niche as it can seem, cyc|er heralds the sort of output that could really grow if utilised in the right way.
But the layers go even further down beyond that again, especially with the twin pseudo-concepts of moving between varying states of depression and transmissions from space that Overrider attempt to juggle. You can see where both of those sides factor in, too; there’s the crushing, industrialised noise to cuts through any empty space on agitated_| and quarter|ess, but also brighter, more ethereal tones played into p ssibility_sw rd in its echoing synths that its drilling beat bores into. And yet, between both of them, there’s a clinical sense of the unknown that Overrider are emphatically good at fostering, particularly when heavier guitars come in to serve as an accompaniment for industrial-rock-adjacent turns on a track like ansible. The mood is universally uncertain, almost as if this is an album collapsing in on itself, emblematic of the age in which it inhabits and providing its soundtrack in a suitably cold, digitised form. There’s definitely power in how oppressively bleak it is, and it’s something that Overrider have already worked to their advantage.
But like a lot of the more experimental side of electronic music tends to be, cyc|er isn’t an album with a long half-life post-listen. Part of that can be attributed to the natural barriers that come from something this unconventional in an instrumental form, but those barriers go deeper into the core of things, where the deliberately obtuse structuring can be hard to come to terms with on a normal listen. That’s definitely by design, but it’s also the shorter runtime that prevents Overrider from expanding or exploring some of their ideas more. It can leave cyc|er feeling a bit truncated at times, where the seeds of the ideas are planted and get their hooks in, but they don’t grow to the extent they need to, and past a possible existence of soundtracking the cyberpunk apocalypse, cyc|er isn’t quite as memorable as it should be.
The ideas are still resoundingly solid though, as Overrider’s endeavours have earned them one of the more interesting and potential-filled electronic crossovers in recent memory. cyc|er is the sort of challenging listen that’s always good to have, particularly when it’s so unique from an act inside the alternative world, even if it’s not quite reaching the sonic grandeur and scope that it could and, really, should. There’s still a good amount to like here though, as a listen that feels contemporary in more ways than just its sound, and an execution with a solid amount of breadth and depth that still leaves room to be explored. It’s going to be interesting to see how far that exploration goes too, as there’s something to Overrider that cyc|er lays down the foundations for, but the real spectacle will be seeing what exactly they can build on them.
For fans of: Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Squarepusher
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘cyc|er’ by Overrider is released on 15th May.