After moaning about the state of the current industrial scene in yesterday's review of Infest 2010, Dragonfly Lingo makes for appropriate listening. At its heart 'Offscreen' is an instrumental industrial album loaded with movie samples which manages to conjure up a progressive atmosphere despite a certain lack of consistency.
The conceit of the record is that it is the work of a music producer who is trying to marry snippets of film dialogue with music to provide a different experience for viewers and listeners. I'm not sure why the character substitute is present at all within the concept, since this is what 'Offscreen' does capably by itself. Each track is wrapped around a particular film, mostly fairly offbeat choices from the 1970s and 1980s – some are genre staples like The Exorcist and Videodrome, others are more leftfield choices such as Sneakers and The Conversation. The use of film samples is something that is sometimes unfairly reviled by musicians and audiences alike, which I assume has come from years of half-arsed pieces of 'cool' dialogue being tacked on to the beginning of amateur industrial rock tracks. It's often difficult to see past this to some of the excellent work down through the '80s and early '90s by bands like Front Line Assembly and the cEvin Key/Dwayne Goettel side project Doubting Thomas.
The latter is probably the closest touchpoint for 'Offscreen', and indeed much of it comes across as a less processed version of their track "Come In Piece". The first half is somewhat minimalist listening that follows similar live drum loop and squelch/drone synth patterns that synch nicely with the samples but don't produce anything terribly exciting. Whether the loops and synths have been individually developed or picked from stock libraries is unclear at times, and if they have been built from the ground up then a more distinct production style is definitely called for. Many of the earlier tracks also have a more percussive drum/beat sound, which doesn’t seem to gel so well with the electronica it sits alongside.
However, once the pounding beats of “Morningside” kick in, a transformation occurs. Beyond the obvious more dance-friendly take on the sound, the samples develop further to become an integral part of each track, the production becomes a little more layered and the overall sound is beefed up from instrumental interludes to songs in their own right. This is followed by "I've Got Your Number" - a slow-burn late night mindfuck - and the outstanding "Circles", which is a close sonic cousin to the work put out by Trent Reznor on 2008's 'Ghosts' release.
Closer "Sun's Here" isn't quite to the same level despite a welcome use of additional instrumentation in the form of a piano piece, and overall the listener is left with the impression of an album of two halves. Throughout I was struck with how well Dragonfly Lingo's Mitia Wexler had made use of samples as an instrument of their own, selecting rhythmic contributions that build towards rather than detract from the a focused sound, as well as having woven the individual songs around the samples rather than slapping them on as an afterthought. That is to be expected given the conceptual element of the release, but it is still welcome in a world of grinding aggro-industrial dancefloor fillers where the 'chorus' is marked by a hastily thrown-in Full Metal Jacket quote. With some development of sound and the denser instrumentation found on the latter half of the album, Dragonfly Lingo could slot nicely into a widening gap in the current market for old school experimental industrial soundscapes.