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¥736 gridlock. formless. cd. october2k3



the 8th winter
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had enough of the glitch, the clicks & cuts, and laptop jockeying? tired of soulless albums masking nonexistent musicality with technical feats of
indignant genius? bored with bedroom artists incapable of delivering a single compelling track?

formless, gridlock’s fourth album and first full-length for hymen, is as far away from the acrid, slight world of plug-ins and software music as you
could possibly get, which is rather ironic considering that gridlock’s mike wells and mike cadoo live in the would-be epicenter of laptop music, san
francisco. full of lush melodies and luscious analog warmth, formless shuns the pretense of flaccid software acrobatics, instead summoning from the
depths of human emotion a musical epic that touches upon the gravest recesses of memory.

the overtones are clear from the opening track, "pallid:" formless reaches back to the early days of modern electronic music, sonically referencing
classic works like autechre’s incunabula and aphex twin’s selected ambient works 85-92. yet in keeping with gridlock’s more aggressive
mechano-industrial background, wells and cadoo situate formless firmly within the roots of metalized noise and grinding rhythms. as a result,
formless feels unlike any other electronic release in recent memory, realizing raw emotion as carefully crafted sound design.

while the sound of formless is a significant step beyond the harsh percussive elements on their 2001 album for unit, trace, wells and cadoo
both remark that it’s all just a matter of course for gridlock, which began in 1997 with their the synthetic form lp on pendragon records. "gridlock was
an idea with a specific definition as ‘heaviness in electronics,’" explains wells, "and i believe that cadoo and i have realized this vision with each

realizing that vision involved taking advantage of new equipment at 5-25 audio, well’s mastering outfit, to push gridlock into new territory,
emphasizing spatial depth and melodic invention throughout the recording of formless. the results are nothing short of breathtaking.

the epic begins with "pallid"’s heavy mood, a product of forceful noise structures pounding through an idyllic synth melody - setting the stage for
formless’ central theme of emotional catharsis borne out through conflicting sonic textures. fans of l’usine, marumari, funckarma and darrel fitton’s
jello project will find the cavernous expanses of "return" an aural feast, filled with harmonies shaped as much by stereo imaging and time delay as
they are by intuitive chord progressions. another fitton project, the famed bola on skam records, serves as the debarkation point for "song23," an
intricate interplay of wavering synthesizer themes and emotional counterpoints that swells into a grand climax before heading into the
melancholic leitmotifs of "invert." things become more contentious on "chrometaphor" and "scratch," where gridlock’s penchant for fractured beat
textures and discombobulated rhythms rush formless into a more agitated finale. "displacement" forges archetypal hip-hop rhythms into a mindful
industrial chant, while the emotional thrust of "the 8th winter" and "atomontage" withers into a sepulchral dirge, "done processing." like one of
mahler’s early symphonies, formless conveys the spectacle of a death and spiritual passing as sonic revelation, a declaration of emotion torn

the ebb and flow - and sheer musicality - of formless will doubtless come as a surprise to those expecting (or hoping) gridlock to produce a harsh, rabid
collection of apocalyptic noise terror.

"we always had a joke about jumping the fence!" jests cadoo, who also runs the minidisk label n5md, of the duo’s industrial background. "we are
directly descendant from the ‘i’ two ways about it! but we constantly move forward; that’s important. most of the folks that started
the same time, they are still doing the same thing. that’s not enough for us."

nothing short of a colossal musical achievement, formless extends gridlock beyond the ordinary genrefication of their san francisco peers into the
sonic sublime.



heilige scheiße, ich muss das hier leider so lapidar mal eben mitteilen, gridlock sind für mich eine der entdeckungen des jahres. einfach, weil sie die besten englischen melodien, mit den dicksten, durch 24 filterbänke gnadenlos übersteuerten beats mischen und das ganze in einer so offenherzig oldschooligen art und weise präsentieren, einen hit nach dem nächsten schreiben und alles so dermaßen laut und dicht abmischen, dass man nicht anders kann, als "formless" als rave auf 110 bpm zu begreifen (locker geschätzt). klar denke ich hier an "amber" und überhaupt an diese zeit als trillerpfeifen zu warp gehörten wie der keks zum tee, die euphorisierte zeit, in der man sich idm ins ohr brüllte und sich dann in die arme fiel. "formless" ist total geradeaus, schaut nicht nach links oder rechts, hat beats und melodien und braucht nichts anderes, ist dark und doch freundlich, haunting und euphorisch, breit wie tief und so erfreulich einfach. simpel. ohne kanten, dabei total verspielt und ja ... einfach großartig. ein großer kessel voll verzerrtem glücks. (thaddi)

vital weekly

one late summer night back in 1989 some friends and i sat in a car on the way to some grindcore gig. as we sit in the car listening to the radio the station runs a portrait of richard d. james. driving along the highway at sunset while listening to the soundscapes of mr. d. james was a sublime experience. i was completely intrigued by the "selected ambient works"-releases of aphex twin. although the music was rather subdued the electronic soundscapes on these albums managed to stay alternately quiet and confrontational. considering the talent of making dreamlike emotional ambience there certainly are some common grounds between aphex twin and san francisco-based collaboration-project gridlock. gridlock is one of these artists that i have only followed on a regular basis meaning that i have only heard single tracks from the project on various compilations etc. but every single track that i have listened to, on any compilation ended up as one of my favourite tracks of that certain compilation. the unique ability of keeping one foot in the spheres of beautiful ambience and one in the dark territories of rhythmic power electronics makes this project somehow unique - and definitely one of the most underrated projects within the industrial/power noise scene. there is a supreme balance between ambient beauty and harsh distorted rhythm textures. take a listen to a track like "36:6:116" from the masonic-compilation released on hymen back in 2002, and you must be convinced. on this third full-length titled "formless", gridlock have left the most extreme expressions behind giving more space to the eerie ambientscapes. still there are lots of distorted chaotic rhythm textures on the album, but the melody is the driving force here. a variety of uniquely arranged soft and hard soundscapes provide a range of aural mood. the expression of formless reminds me of something between the first selected ambient works-album of aphex twin and the harsh rhythmic ambience of certain tracks of speedy j's "public energy no. 1". the sheer brutality have been suppressed on "formless", the rhythmic power electronics has disappeared. still this is not pure ambient. call it rhythmic industrial ambient, idm or whatever. no matter what this is an essential album!!! (nmp)


ooit begon deze groep als goede maar niet heel erg originele dark electro / industrial act die goed naar skinny puppy had geluisterd. met iedere plaat evolueerde het geluid van de band. de melodieen werden minder standaard donker en gothic achtig en de ritme structuren werden steeds complexer. op formless gaat de evolutie door hoewel openingsnummer 'pallid' anders kan doen vermoeden. dit nummer doet enigszins denken aan het iets oudere werk, maar dan in een complexere variant. het nummer is dynamisch en wisselt sfeerpassages en harde ritmische industriele stukken af. < i>formless wordt na dit nummer een stuk rustiger ('distance') om gedurende een aantal nummers weer op te bouwen naar meer tempo en hardere geluiden ('scratch') en dan uiteindelijk weer rustig en sfeervol tot een eind te komen ('done processing'). het geluid van deze plaat doet denken aan het oude werk van autechre. waarbij een vergelijkbare donkere en melancholische sfeer over de onvoorspelbare ritmes heen ligt. gridlock heeft met formless opnieuw een knappe plaat afgeleverd. weinig acts zijn in staat om op dergelijke wijze kunstige elektronische muziek te maken die zowel artistiek interessant is als gewoon mooi om naar te luisteren. (martijn van gessel)

club metropolis

i remember a long time ago when the american band gridlock released their first album "the synthetic form" on the now deceased label "pendragon records", that gridlock sounded a bit like skinny puppy, but a lot of has happened since then. they have been on various record labels like "unit" where they released the high acclaimed album "trace" which is a masterpiece. the new album "formless" is released on the ant zen sub label "hymen records". "formless" comes in nice digipack together with a great layout as we usual see from the hymen label. gridlock still consists of mike wells and mike cadoo. "formless" is gridlocks fourth album, and here is no exception and no lack of good music, everything gridlock does is amazing. they collect their influences from bands like autechre & haujobb, but have still managed to create their own unique sound. on "formless" we get 12 songs which are all nicely made with very melodic, floating and scratchy sounds, everything is very slow and atmospheric. here are no club hits, just music which is made for listening to. "formless" is probably the most commercial album gridlock has ever made. this does not mean that "formless" is mainstream music, but instead music that easily could reach a wider audience also outside the idm/industrial scene. "formless" is packed with great tracks like "return" where we also get a bit of female vocals in the background. songs like "pallid", "song 23", "chromemetaphor", and "displacement" are all amazing. actually "formless" is an album full of brilliant songs. all 12 songs are masterpieces somehow, just great and honest songs from the best band in the idm music genre. if you haven't yet discovered gridlock, it is about time to purchase "formless" and their earlier material.


i wish 'certain' artists would make more music like this, as there is a big vacant hole and gridlock is sitting right in the middle of it. too many harsh experimental industrial albums allow the undoubted creativity of their steamroller manifestations to sit and fester in a pool of self-congratulatory studio trickery. few take the work to the sort of places that gridlock does. 'formless' is an unusual description for this body of work - perhaps it's ironic, as it is one of the few albums that actually bathes the aggressive noise rhythms with such attractive and emotive swathes of synthesised sound intelligently. 'pallid' is a huge creaking, groaning monster, but with a heart; and as the heart breathes so the melody embraces it, like the tiny fish that flutter around the deadly shark. 'return' is another cracker, with the clubby beats washed in an ocean of reverberated pads and synthesiser grandios. and so 'formless' continues, exploring different ways to amalgamate raw, edgy powerhouse rhythms, juxtapositioned against huge melancholy symphonies of sound. gridlock even have the guts to throw off their shackles and play ambient pure and simple on the closing 'done processing'. autechre and aphex twin devotees will find much of interest in this dark ambient powerhouse of an album. thought provoking and at times sublime, this is the best offering from the hymen label to date.

sonic seducer

alles andere als form- oder konturlos agieren gridlock auf ihrem neuen album "formless". ganz im gegenteil - die beiden steuern sehr zielgenau auf warmen und komplexen electronicasound zu, der nur noch sehr wenig gemein hat mit den düsteren tracks ihrer anfangstage, und zudem, wie kürzlich auf dem iwtbf festival in berlin bewiesen, auch noch zu frühstückszeit das publikum zu begeisterungsstürmen hinreißen kann. im epischen breitwandsound lassen wells und cadoo schrottpressen kopulieren, zerfransen gedrosselte beatpattern und zeigen wenig scheu vor verspielten melodien. damit stehen sie nun endgültig frühen autechre näher als skinny puppy oder anderen finsterlingen. inwieweit ihre alten fans diese entwicklung mitmachen wollen, können nur diese entscheiden, gridlock selber haben sich jedenfalls gegen den stillstand entschieden. (sascha bertoncin)


it seems that not many people agree with me when i say that gridlock's last release, trace, was a step back for them. it certainly went over big with the (extremely large and well-publicized) warp records crew. most reviewers touted "trace" as a huge improvement in the band's sound. there is an important difference between most of those reviewers and myself, however: i happen to enjoy listening to tortured walls of static. loudly. indeed, in retrospect, it wasn't simply the force of expectation: "trace" remains bland and lifeless for this reviewer: a collection of tracks devoid of the continuous, submersive power characteristic of some of the duo's work. with "formless", however, one feels as though gridlock could be nearing the precipice of something great. i defy anyone to listen to 'pallid', formless's opening track, and tell me that it's bland. gridlock is here at their most triumphant and magnificent: a plaintive chorus over massive, titanium-shredding breaks... the natural evolution of gridlock's sound. the production and sound design are, as always, flawless -- the sound is so pure at moments that one can get a sense of the divine. really. but even here, in what might be the release's finest moment, one can begin to hear the problem. the problem, put as simply as it can be, is the following. gridlock has gone new age. now, this statement should be taken in context: nothing drives me into a murderous frenzy like cheezy 80's ambient. my new age detection system is so wildly oversensitive as to occasionally mislead and sometimes, in fact, i'd like to shove a keyboard directly up vangelis's ass (to pick but one potential target). if your tolerance for extremely well produced, but still essentially new age synth sounds is somewhat higher than mine, however, you might be able to derive serious enjoyment from "formless". there are some lovely rhythms here, and some fresh compositions. it's an even quieter, more ambient gridlock for the most part, the masterful ebb and flow between tracks returns to the sound of this release. unfortunately, there's also a certain amount of forgettable ambient noodling with sounds that seem just a little too familiar. in the end, the release makes me cringe once or twice too often. the sheer flawlessness and pristine beauty of this music leaves me torn, however, thinking repeatedly of what could be... (drew)

wreck this mess

ce qui choque, au bon sens du terme, c'est le contraste entre les sonorités mises en oeuvre. la rondeur des basses fréquences souligne le mordant de breakbeats crissants. des intermèdes mélodieux atténuent le tranchant de structures éclatées ("distance", "song23", "invert", "atomontage"). si les morceaux sont dans l'ensemble assez disloqués et parfois abrupts ("chrometaphor"), ce parti pris les rend néanmoins accessibles aux oreilles des profanes; d'autant que la ligne mélodique n'est, elle, jamais rompue. (ld)


la tentazione era di classificarlo come ambient-breakcore ma sarebbe stato fuorviante, perche' formless non arriva mai ad essere completamente ne' l'uno ne' l'altro genere pur contenendo molti elementi di entrambi. se mai vi siete imbattuti in un pezzo dei gridlock dovreste avere gia' un'idea di come suona formless, il loro stile e' molto riconoscibile, ma dato che non credo che tutti voi li conosciate, potrei descriverli come un duo che crea musica ricca e intensa, basata sull'uso massiccio di synths analogici maestosi e profondi che compongono melodie semplici ed emozionanti, con una componente mediamente aggressiva di beats lenti ma molto pesanti misti fra ritmiche hip hop e distorsioni industrial. alcuni li accostano agli autechre dei primi album, si puo' cogliere una certa ispirazione ma i gridlock non si limitano certo a questo, hanno una grande personalita', le melodie sono piu' varie e melanconiche, piu' vicine a bola se vogliamo, mentre i breaks sono sicuramente piu' pesanti di qualsiasi produzione ae, lenti ma incisivi. ci sono tracce nella prima meta' dell'album che hanno ritmiche praticamente di hip hop elettronico, come song23 e invert, mentre a partire da chrometaphor in poi le casse si fanno piu' spesse, distorte e gli strati di beats si sovrappongono in intricate strutture sature di bassi e distorsioni. la traccia piu' significativa e' atomontage, con tre minuti rilassati di accordi lunghi e rarefatti ai quali prima si aggiunge una ritmica pressoche' glitch e dopo una pausa piomba una scarica di beats industriali che ricordano molto da vicino i somatic responses. dopo una tale intensita' arriva l'ultimo pezzo, done processing, a calmare l'atmosfera con nove minuti di di toni ambientali senza l'ombra di ritmo. produzione limpida e cristallina, un album accessibile e intrigante che potrebbe affascinare chi ascolta elettronica di casa warp (ma non solo ovviamente). (luca)


when they started gridlock was a good but not really original dark electro / industrial act that had listened quite well to skinny puppy. with every record their sound evolved. the melodies became less cliché dark and gothic like and the rhythm structures became more and more complex. on formless the evolution continues, although the opening track 'pallid' could raise some other expectations. this song goes back to the sound of somewhat older work, only in a more complex version. the track is dynamic and switches between atmospheric fragments and harsh rhythmic industrial pieces. after this track formless becomes more quite('distance') to built up again towards songs with more tempo and louder sounds ('scratch') before leaving the listener with a quiet and atmospheric track ('done processing'). the sound of this record is reminiscent of the early autechre records. it has the same dark and melancholy mood laid out over unpredictable rhythms. gridlock has with formless again made a clever album. only few acts know how to make electronic music that is both artistically interesting and really nice to listen to. (martijn van gessel)

signal zero

le quatrième et meilleur album du projet de san francisco. ces deux là ont trouvé le truc pour faire avancer leur musique, c'est palpable et le bond en avant impressionne. un opus hard-idm d'une rare beauté pour les longues soirées d'hiver. la meilleure époque des somatic responses (le lp circumflex, le casse-tete 01...) s'imbrique dans la meilleure époque d'autechre (incunabula, amber) avec ça et là de petites touches à la haujobb. alors évidement "formless" a le défaut d'arriver après, mais c'est tellement bien foutu qu'on se dit que lorsque gridlock poussera encore davantage son propre univers, cryptera un peu plus ses influences, nous allons tous pleureur un bon coup. pour l'heure le duo propose 15 plages de splendides nappes immaculées, spleeneuses, en habillage d'équations rythmiques mécano-charclées. " the heavier the beat, the more beautiful the ambience, the greater the contrast" résument-ils sur leur site. surement pas une révélation pour les lecteurs de s/zero, mais c'est peu de dire que gridlock a les bons tracks pour illustrer l'adage. en boucle chez plein de monde en ce moment. normal. (dr. venkman)

twilight zone

this "gridlock"-album focusses on the mixture of calm parts with rhythmics added, what results in a blend of very alternating music. the tracks are ambientesque, loungic, complex and even spherical. influences of ambient/breakcore/chillout are undeniable, but the basic material is made of great sounds and nice rhythms - and for me up-to-date, if not even really "new"! it's a very entertaining album with enjoyable atmosphere. another point is, that some of the rhythms are structured and at the same time not structured! this is not a paradox, it's the proof that gridlock is one of the acts that is acting on new grounds. recommended!

vengeance mag

formless, gridlock's fourth album and first full-length for hymen delivers excellence in the world of fine tuned mechanics. this is my favorite release from gridlock to date using elements from the past on some song's that takes me back to the synthetic form days of a harsher gridlock to the more educated version of today's "formless" where trace left off. this release is pure emotion from wells and cadoo with the hand of god writing the notes. formless reaches back to the early days of modern electronic music, referencing classic works like autechre's incunabula and aphex twin's selected ambient works 85-92. yet in keeping with gridlock's more aggressive mechano-industrial background that is trademark today. while the sound of formless is a significant step beyond the harsh percussive efforts from the past it will still let you know that gridlock is the leading electronic musicians of the future bearing there unique and subtle sound that parallels with todays industrial genre. this release is classic 10 out of a 10. (t.appleton)

if there’s one project that can mate electronic effluvia with metallic abrasion, it’s gridlock. in their evolution from skinny puppy admirer to champion of all things electronique, they never dismissed their self-professed first prerogative ‘heaviness in electronics.’ formless is their fourth album, and again their sublime sound expanses meet quite noisy restraints and splintered rhythmics. part mid-1990’s melodious warp harmonics, part glitch'n’clicks, the duo careens through well-crafted tracks that manage to captivate the senses. majestic synthetics swirl past broken and grating beat constructs. not much has changed since their last album trace, it has just gotten better and more alluring. they have finally arrived in a headspace that allows them to freely watch the interaction of disparate elements, to fully embrace musicality in all its chord progressive splendor and keep the distortion on top of that. even ethereal female vocals shortly drift by this time around. when the patches swell and waft, it’s always offset with enough technological stringency, may it be harsh sounds or stuttering arhythmia, to not let it plummet into new age ambience quagmires. "pallid" and "chrometaphor" are prime examples for this balance. stern iciness channels all glowing serenity. a truly beautiful album by an outstanding band. (till)

tout débutte avec ce curieux vague à l'âme synthétique qui s'évapore de tout allid. premier constat, le son est d'une profondeur hallucinante. suffit d'écouter pour comprendre. puis peu à peu, le groove se montre et s'installe, dur, noisy, intransigeant. une vraie symphonie glacée s'élève en illuminant le chaos, puis le purifit jusqu'à l'effacement. distance s'ouvre sur un breakbeat electro frôlant la perfection, laissant de très longues secondes le champ libre à un ambient simple et diffus, tandis que return se refuse avec entêtement à réellement s'enflammer, préferant laisser les machines s'exprimer longuement avant d'emporter dans un élan d'ingéniosité le rythme et la mélodie parmis une multitude de plans géométriques se frayant un chemin vers les tympans. electronica plus discrète, au profis d'un lyrisme virtuel des plus réussit avec invert, puis culture du paradoxe avec chrometaphor. les longues plages ambientes s'opposent à un groove chargé et percutant, les uns s'affirmant face aux autres en permanence. sonorités acides, voir old-school, sur scratch. atmosphères célestes et rythme rouillé. dans une veine plus calme et un peu tribale, displacement échappe quelques minutes à la frénésie pour dévoiler la complexité de son enveloppe. une fois de plus le son est ample et vertigineux. une étrange mélancolie émane de the 8th winter. froid et inerte comme son l'indique, ce titre un peu à part ressemble à une sorte de tentative déséspérée de rétablir une once de chaleur, mise en musique. le beat, hargneux et franchement noise, reste replié sur lui-même malgré ses convulsions intermittentes. plus classique, re/modul rétablit un peu de vie grâce à une soft-electronica classieuse et ronde, qui n'est pas sans rappeler autechre. enfin, done processing clôt formless sur une touche onirique et lumineuse, très justement composée et faisant presque oublier qu'on vient de terminer l'écoute d'un album, convaincant en tout point, d'electronica. une production remarquable, qui va en satisfaire plus d'un, puisant dans ses racines la folie créatrice qui l'anime aujourd'hui.

headphone commute
here's another perfect example, of how dating music can underestimate its beauty and importance - a 2003 release on hymen that still holds up really well today. san francisco's mike cadoo and mike wells decided to end the ten-year gridlock project in 2005, yet cadoo continued his development in music and released an acclaimed ambient and shoegazer album on highly regarded n5md label (which, incidentally, he manages), titled in distance, under his bitcrush alias. in formless, we can already detect cadoo's early transformation into atmospheric soundscapes offset by solid, post-industrial influenced idm beats, that he has been perfecting with wells, along with his drum'n'bass influences from releases as dryft. gridlock even managed to secure a spot on a coveted travel sickness box set compilation (which i finally tracked down in spain and snatched at a hefty price). to me, this is the music that blends all of my favorite elements, and is at the root of definition of idm, even as the term is on its way out. highly recommended for collectors who wish to own a piece of history. riyl: beefcake, architect, proem, displacer. favorite tracks: pallid, chrometaphor, and displacement.



gridlock website:

¥045 gridlock. formless. 2x12"lp 33 rpm. october2k3