Ben Billington’s Quicksails has hovered on the periphery of my consciousness for a while, but he’s never hit home quite like he has on Mortal. In albums spread across labels like NNA, Captcha, Spectrum Spools and Digitalis, he crafted well-natured electronic burble that seemed like an outlet for ideas outside his work in ADT, ONO and Tiger Hatchery. With his latest, though, he’s packing a lot more emotional fallout into the skittering squelch than he’s let on in most of his past releases. He returns to Chicago’s Hausu Mountain for Mortal, an album wrung heavy with the hangover of Bililngton’s personal conflicts and upheavals.
The album straddles, blurs and stretches the lines between Kosmiche, IDM and free jazz; finding comfort in buzzing synths, conflict in stuttering beats and a means of outburst through the sax and trumpet wails of ADT members Carlos Chavarria and Jake Acosta. The album’s tones shift like mood ring phases, guarded and sullen one moment, tense and manic the next. Like its creator, the record can’t be pinned into a corner, it is flux and fluid and all the better for its temperament. There was an era of electronic meets jazz records that became somewhat of a cliche, especially in the late ’90s, but Quicksails manages to easily sidestep falling into a NuJazz pothole. Billington doles out a fizzing emotional balm that’s met with welcome arms.
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