Joe Colley’s skeleton key is an intra-dimensional sense of humor. It exists in a place between and beyond dry, deadpan, and defeatist, and is not actually funny. He has a knack for unlocking the essence of the absurdly uncomplicated, elevating it to a place of near-iconic significance and leaving it there. Hovering in a void. Or mashed in the jowl of an insect getting doused with regurgitated chyme and rumen bacteria. Consistent with his past efforts, Deformation Of Tone contains no sturm und drang or exhausting drama. This spectacle-free album delivers abrasive-adjacent electronic judders cloaked in a feeling of intimacy distilled from primordial ooze. Opening voices dissolve into Lucierian mosaic yammer, and plummet into a negative space populated by an unadorned clicking, that most elemental physical manifestation of audio phenomena, the antithesis of awareness and enlightenment and transcendence. Of sentience, even. A quintessential example of his streamlined, efficient hilarity. The episodes continue without pause, as if one is moving through an exhibition. Compared to Colley’s work, which he once described as “little noises arranged on a piece of plastic,” a lot of other noise seems hell-bent on shameless over-compensation. Embarrassingly so. His material has always been low-key, and Deformation Of Tone finds him shuffling in a colder, harsher, more desolate direction. The single-malt rasp of an unnamed conspiracy theorist / motivational speaker, present more for his intonation than anything else, punctuates this rather sculptural 33 minutes of machines whirring, devices beeping, blank-face rotary drones swelling and merging with unnaturally regimented hive rustlings and perfectly unpleasant high-gain squelch — all constructed with a master’s timing and sense of scale.