Million Square’s ‘Fantasy Grounds’: A Sonic Odyssey through Glitched Jazz and Sci-Fi Reverie

London’s electroacoustic duo, Million Square, pushes sonic boundaries with ‘Fantasy Grounds’ EP, blending glitched jazz intricately.

Currently turning many heads in the modern worlds of electronica and improvised music, London based duo Million Square have now released their fourth EP in five years, Fantasy Grounds.

Released by Lo Recordings on July 28th, the five new tracks reveal a darker sonic pathway for the duo, with raw atmospheres conjured out of ‘no soft synths’ and moments of glorious dissonance.

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Overflowing with captivating elements, the EP evokes memories of iconic sci-fi like Space Odyssey mixed with intense poetry of the Beat era (if Beat Poetry had a sound, this would be it). Yet, even that comparison falls short of capturing the mesmerising allure it exudes.

Renowned British jazz drummer Moses Boyd (solo, Beyoncé) hails Million Square as “masters of eclecticism,” residing at the cusp of electronic and acoustic brilliance. It’s easy to see why. Let’s take its lead single, ‘Tiniri’ as an example.

We’re exposed to an array of synth from Max Luthert that contrasts between a harsh lead above a swirling and starry pad, before a momentary pause segues into a colossal kick drum that starts with a lurching, off-kilter rhythm completed with a live gong. That’s only the first 35 seconds.

As the piece progresses, Duncan Eagles’ tenor sax enters the fray with mercurial flourishes of emotion that are further expanded upon with a backing synth lead. Halfway through its runtime, ‘Tiniri’s intense soundscape subsides into a mellow interlude of synth bass and echoing sax with cresting swells of crunchy lead.

The piece continues to surprise us when its true volume reemerges in a fast glitched-up groove that almost resembles drum ’n’ bass. Over this, Eagles’ sax juts, cuts and cascades around on a nicely-contrasting scale which takes a prominent position among sparkling 8-bit-sounding synth notes and other mind-warping effects. 

While Eagles’ playing on ‘Tiniri’ sounds strangely like the manic horns of Captain Beefheart and his ensemble on their almost overwhelming tracks like ‘Flash Gordon’s Ape’ and ‘Hair Pie: Bake 1’, Million Square also claim to take influence from older jazz visionaries like John Coltrane, along with modern electronic mavericks like Autechre. 

The entire EP is a sustained masterclass in complimentary musical texture, unpredictable improvisation, and a continued search for boundary-pushing experiments, which appear in triumphant moments of discovery. 

Explore deeper into Million Square’s avenues of sound on their YouTube channel

Review By Corin Shearston