Backwater is the second novel from Switzerland-based electronic musician Rupert Lally. Like his debut, Solid State Memories, Backwater is a suspenseful thriller. However, instead of pitching its wares in a dystopian and terrifying near-future like his first book, Backwater occupies the past, present and future. The story temporally criss-crosses all three to follow its lead characters as they try to prevent environmental disaster using the rare natural resources of the Bronze Age past, mysterious archways allowing instantaneous movement between eras.
This is principally a high-speed race against, and through, time, but also an exploration of other, deeper, themes: the bond between father and child, gender inequality, power struggles, corporate villainy, technology and climate change. It is hyper-aware of big issues facing society today but also authentically well-researched about Bronze Age history and culture. A trace of Solid State Memories arrives with a brief trip to the future, where we find Earth ravaged by global warming and profligate resource exploitation, a dirty husk of its former self filled with criminality and hunger.
Backwater is complicated, as most time-travelling tales can be. It both demands and requires complete focus, especially when Lally’s prose moves at an urgent pace through different time zones, left-turns and unexpected events. Like his previous novel, Backwater confirms Lally as an original story-teller drawn to mystery and drama-filled narratives. Dizzying and rewarding.
A sense of mystery also pervades Lally’s latest album, Hacker, released by Spun Out Of Control. Hacker operates in a interstitial time zone somewhere between 1980s movie soundtrack and 1990s Warp label electronica, using brief samples of WarGames, Hackers and other films to supply a plot line of dial-up era computer vigilantism.
Lally’s recent albums have been among the best, and perhaps most accomplished, in his career. Hacker sits comfortably in his latest streak of excellent releases, even if it is the complete antithesis of Wanderweg, the pastoral and bucolic exploration of natural landscape and pathways of his adopted Swiss home that preceded it. Here, the focus is squarely on icicle-sharp melodic tendrils threading their way down phone cables, encouraged and framed by rhythms as focused as an algorithm figuring out the password for a locked military server. Where standout tracks like ‘Hot Swap’ and ‘2600Hz’ are freighted with a vital, relentless energy, ‘Access Denied’ is thwarted but tender, and easily one of the most poignant pieces Lally has ever composed.
Backwater by Rupert Lally is available now at Amazon. Hacker by Rupert Lally was released December 23 2022 by Spun Out Of Control
Words: Mat Smith
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