I don’t know enough about sleep-science to properly enforce my intuition that upon waking up, I’m without identity. Most mornings, once the cogs are turning and the echo replies received, I’ll think back to those initial post-sleep moments with bemusement. I’m utterly useless in that window, disregarding my phone alarm as some sort of technical malfunction, stumbling through a fifth-dimension buffet of absurd half-dreams like a cat after anaesthesia. But it soon dissipates, to exist only in the form of sporadic remembrances so vague as to render it practically non-existent. And yet, Iconoclast evokes an extended trip into that formless state; a northbound train to consciousness come away from the tracks. A safari in the psyche.
In this non-place, you accept the irregularities presented within as fact. Not once does it occur to you that buildings aren’t normally upside down, or that breathing underwater is just as easy as on land. You don’t question it because they’re built into the world you know. Cracked Actor capture that essence within the shapes of fleeting paradoxes; Iconoclast is brazenly reticent, a ‘halt’ hand gesture with a ‘come-hither’ finger. The landscape alters with slow ceaselessness, and what is at first cloaked by a lit mist of woven synths and airy, intangible voices becomes blackened by soot and ash – but rather than recoil, you allow it.
When ‘Third’ gives way to ‘Funerals’, for example – the former, a dimly lit cloak-and-dagger amble, the latter a strobe lit underground wrestling match – the shift is seismic. It’s a see-sawing from one extremity to the other, and it does run the risk of provoking nausea in the undisciplined, but certain circumstances allow for such turbulence: In this instance it’s the on-the-cusp falsetto of Sebastian Field, the unlikely centre-point around which the bedlam is allowed to whirlwind without getting unruly. Remove the pivot that it provides, and the back-and-forth jumping between strident MIDI drums and the brawl of an actual kit might feel gratuitous, but that alluring trill keeps them in check.
Cracked Actor wear these juxtapositions only realised in retrospect like points of pride. In one moment you’ll warm your hands on the comforting heat emanating from ‘Upstructures’, where Field’s vocals drift to the crest of a flame atop the wick of a scant and sleepy beat, and in another you’ll rearrange your skeletal structure to the restless percussion and sharp guitar brays of ‘Hollywood‘. And the same with ‘Blue’, a hushed and slow sway that creaks under the weight of its own duress, which leads into the spry reverie and wry smile of ‘Lemon On Your Lover’ – it’s one face with a different expression for every direction of the light it bathes in.
By way of its duelling sparseness and frenzy, Iconoclast is akin to a non-physical tour of a person’s inner sanctum – a traipsing through empty corridors and occasional peering into rooms bustling with pent-up abstraction, the likes of which you wake up from not to consider until several hours after the fact, with nothing to remember it by except loose imagery snagged on a wire-frame. At the close, trying to recall the events that led to your abandon is as fruitless an exercise as attempting to pinpoint the exact moment you fell into your dream – but you know you’ll return, at some point, blissfully detached from reality to watch the changing landscape.