Maxwell Sterling
Turn of Phrase

(AD 93)


Where do you start with Turn of Phrase? Composed by producer and double bassist Maxwell Sterling, it incorporates aspects of techno, avant-garde and baroque, but really sounds like a protracted interpretation of Mesopotamian cuneiform; jagged, alien, perfectly preserved, but still only legible to niche scholars.

Through labyrinthine arps, pin-sharp percussion and precious moments of sublime beauty, it feels like Sterling is saying… something; something about slippages in memory, or history running along a Möbius strip, or something about “our own tumultuous time, man.” The LP’s seven-minute opus ‘Tenderness’, which features skilfully contrapuntal spoken delivery from Leslie Winer (“queer as it sounds, that sums up my ethics”), slips into multiple pocket dimensions of bizarro club music.

Turn of Phrase seems to think quite a lot of itself (which isn’t unfounded), which occasionally comes across with the same smugness of a monument demanding your attention. What’s more, it could be dismissed for reading too closely from Vessel and Holly Herndon’s hymn sheet, and it’s all too easy to floor the listener with bare-fisted noise. But keep it close to hand; like an ancient manuscript, its finer details may reveal themselves.