Artist: gridlock
Label: Hymen Records
Release Date: Early 2004 CD, mid 2004 vinyl
Available from: (samples available)
Genre keywords: IDM, Industrial, Ambient, Electronic, Experimental (but not in the John Cage way)

formless (sic) is the fourth full-blown album from industrial/ambient/IDM duo Mike Wells and Mike Cadoo, also known as Gridlock (I'm not counting remixes of Trace or extended singles like Engram). It gets praise from me (and this writeup) because it is the first time, in my considerable musical experience (yes, this is subjective), that a musical group has managed to surprise me with the degree of innovation present twice (once with Further (1999), again with formless (2004). May experimentation never cease.

Gridlock's modus operandi was always the juxtaposition of soft, Vangelis-like synths that slowly soar to the heavens and dip into demondom with harsh, ultra-rhythmic explosions of industrial noise, drum-machine intense beats like a game of Quake on depressants ... then speed ... then some more depressants. Alter frequency. Change order. Redefine tempo. Repeat. The end result is an ambiently melancholy melange of order and chaos, interspersed with moments of stark naked panic.

You may now commence calling my description a bunch of pretentious twaddle. Thank you. Let's continue.

formless does nothing to change this beguiling formula, except ... that it does. Whereas in earlier albums waves of industrial distorto-noise (does anyone know a better name? It's that sound speakers make just before they burst, combined with harsh static...) were used as percussion, background and sometimes main instrument, in formless they are relegated to sharp staccato percussion while more smooth, non-grating sounds carry the rest of the piece. Vocals are removed entirely, and an increased complexity of glitching is mainly responsible for delivering the entire package straight into the cortex. Where Further was occasionally mellowly repetative (like on Ash), formless is anything but, with percussive patterns, melody and instrumentation morphing constantly. If it's possible to say that gridlock are genre-bending, then formless completes the transition from Industrial Ambient to nearly full-on IDM.

What followed was a track-listing describing the music, but I gave that up as a bad job better not done. Instead I present the tracks, unadorned. The album is a coherent, uninterrupted whole.

interlude 1
the 8th winter
done processing

Personal Sidenote: If you find music boring, predictable and not holding your attention, or if your cube neighbour's country/pop actually gives you a strong negative physical reaction, try this album. The myriad of changing beats and musical structures will soothe the ADD in you (and me).
many listens to all of gridlock's works
self-appointed musical snobbery

Form"less, a.

Shapeless; without a determinate form; wanting regularity of shape.

-- Form"less*ly, adv. -- Form"less*ness, n.


© Webster 1913.

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