For Bark Psychosis, making their debut album was an act of obliteration. Over the course of a few singles and EPs in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the quartet—composed of vocalist and guitarist Graham Sutton, bassist John Ling, drummer Mark Simnett, and eventually multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gish—matured from teenagers obsessed with Napalm Death and noise rock to composers of patient and oft-improvisational pop music. But as they set out to work on Hex, they began to think about the whole enterprise differently. They were ready for the band to die.

“We’ve never been interested in rock,” Sutton told Melody Maker soon after the album’s release. “I’m even uncomfortable with the idea of being in a band. It seems such a juvenile thing. I’m trying to break it all up at the moment.”

Traces of this philosophy were evident in the music they’d made leading up to Hex. “Scum,” a 21-minute song recorded amid the pews and moldy carpets of the London church where Simnett worked and then released as a standalone single, sounds as if their early dreamy pop music had been reduced to misty echoes. Distant vocal sections are clouded out by celestial drones and noises that flutter and flip like heart palpitations. The band moves discursively between loosely defined sections, governed seemingly by the logic of daydreams.

It’s an approach that eventually led Simon Reynolds to call Bark Psychosis “post-rock.” Though the band has little in common, aesthetically or philosophically, with gooey sentimentalists like Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós who became popular under that umbrella, in a literal sense, the term fits. “Scum,” and, later, Hex, represented a full-on rupture with the structure and sound of rock. In place of yowling emotionality, Sutton offered sedate murmurs. For preening riffs, they substituted brittle, crystalline guitar figures. Instead of thunderous percussion, Simnett played economically and compactly, recalling the mechanical precision of the Can records and techno they were listening to at the time. Bark Psychosis learned to be meditative, mysterious, and elliptical in a way that felt almost confrontational. Each release became a provocation to meet the band on its own terms, to find whatever peace you could in its strange rhythms.

With Hex, Sutton—the band’s self-described “taskmaster”—sought to push these ideas even further. The group had long nurtured an obsession with the rigid strictures of techno, and the sequencer-based process that generated such ecstatic repetition, an approach they aimed to replicate on Hex. Jettisoning the four-guys-in-a-room-jamming process that birthed “Scum,” the band worked heavily with sampling, editing, and dubbing takes. The effect is subtle, but the resulting songs do share at least a philosophical link to the electronic music that inspired them. Hex’s compositions are hallucinatory and strange; they unfurl slowly, shifting gradually over the course of a track’s delicate sprawl until the opening moments are a distant memory.

Change is a major motivator in Sutton’s work, and Hex captures Bark Psychosis at a moment of intense upheaval, both in sound and in process. While making the record, they carted around a multitrack tape recorder to friends’ homes, various studios across the UK, and the church that had served as their rehearsal space for years. Sutton would later describe the process as “convoluted,” but it no doubt contributed to the hypnotic and disorienting effect of Hex, which unspools the textures and timbres of guitar pop into a singularly dissociative masterpiece.

Sutton and Ling met in 1983 at a private school in London, where they bonded over their love for bristling heavy music—Swans, Big Black, Public Enemy, Psychic TV—and a general disaffection with the environment. The name Bark Psychosis came to Sutton in a dream, he says: a fitting title for a band of teens playing Napalm Death covers, though less so for the drifting sounds they’d soon come to embrace. Sutton was kicked out of school in his final year and Ling dropped out soon after, leaving them with a lot of free time. Simnett joined the duo on drums as they began to pursue their experiments more deeply. Together, in a tiny room at the church, they started channeling all their discontent into noise.

Working on a track that would eventually become “The Loom,” Hex’s loping opener, Simnett has said, they found a common ground between Sutton and Ling’s love for heavy music and his own affection for prog rock. Early singles like “Nothing Feels” and “All Different Things” reflect the alchemy of this period. They’re placid on their face, with gentle guitar lines like reflecting pools for Sutton’s muttered, minimal lyrics. But they also demonstrate a dynamic intensity acquired from the heavier music their creators loved, their mannered arrangements coalescing and swirling until the surface tension breaks, spilling over in chaotic ripples. When Sutton first played “All Different Things” for Cheree Records, he blew out co-owner Vinita Joshi’s speaker setup.

At once severe and serene, these singles reflect an ethos that Bark Psychosis would carry with them throughout their catalog. They gasped out their songs as if an immense weight rested squarely on their chests, and surveyed the busyness of modern life with the melancholic eyes of two kids who’d spent years scratching out a living in a claustrophobic city. Sutton’s voice rarely rises above a labored whisper or tremulous mumble. Even at the record’s most spirited moments, there’s little sense of urgency or drive, just anhedonia and malaise. Few records capture so evocatively the dejection of realizing that the world isn’t everything you’d imagined it might be.

These generally antisocial feelings, along with the lingering resentments from a complicated legal situation following the band’s departure from Cheree (a label that had per Sutton’s estimation eventually involved the financial backing of “a couple of cons”), no doubt played a part in the shroud of disaffection that hangs over Hex’s trudging tempos and murky sonics. Sutton has gestured over the years to the difficulties he faced in the period of his life: He’d been squatting, resorting to stealing wood from the floorboards of derelict buildings nearby to keep the fire in his own home burning in winter. During the making of the record, he was dealing with the emotional fallout of a life-altering breakup which he says made him “maniacally focused” on Hex. “At the time, it was just so fucking bleak,” he told The Quietus.

Hex finally arrived on Valentine’s Day in 1994, an ironic release date for a record that so fully captures the desolate reality that inspired it. On each of its seven tracks, Bark Psychosis trudge through muddled headspaces and foggy instrumentals, only occasionally finding structures that resemble verses or choruses. Instead, there’s the anxious “Fingerspit,” eight minutes of interlocking guitar and piano melodies that shatter and spiral like cracks spreading across a windshield. “Big Shot” oozes and shudders around a bassline that brings to mind the meditative yet menacing grayscale of dub techno, then evaporates into frigid ambience recalling Harold Budd’s collaborations with Brian Eno.

Hex’s greatest pleasures are unstable and fleeting: notes that ring out just a beat too long, passages of eerie silence, stuttering half-melodies. Just when you think you’ve settled in and understand what’s going on, the tempo slows to a crawl or an echo overtakes the mix, upending all that came before it. A trumpet rings out in the distance, then disappears forever. Sutton offers an image on “Big Shot” that succinctly captures the album’s sense of agitation without a particular direction: “It’s 3 a.m., don’t know where we’re going/Just drive somewhere fast.”

Sutton’s writing on Hex was deliberately minimal, the result of paring down “pages and pages” of lyrics into enigmatic koans and heavy-lidded observations. His use of shadowy suggestion over specific detail only heightens the music’s unease. Sutton has made clear that his lyrics were never meant to signify anything specific, and on Hex, he took joy in a process that he described as “writing something, then cutting it up and throwing it up into the air and reassembling it and seeing what happens.” But there’s still a current of pain and disillusionment winding through his supposed formal experiments. “I can’t tell you anything at all,” he sings on the tense, wounded “Absent Friend.” “And that’s the biggest joke of all.”

Part of what lends Hex its otherworldly energy is Bark Psychosis’ increased reliance on samplers and editing. Though Hex sounds like something that could plausibly be played by a band in a room, Sutton estimated in an interview with the zine Audrie’s Diary that half of the record was “running from computer,” an early flirtation with a process that, nearly three decades later, has become de rigueur for rock bands. But rather than using digital techniques to create a more perfect version of their music, these experiments introduced uncanny jagged edges, like the static and feedback that intermittently scours “A Street Scene” or the unearthly ambience that illuminates the closer “Pendulum Man.”

This urge to reinscribe the limits of what a band could be through experimental new processes, however affecting in the context of Hex, ultimately led to the demise of Bark Psychosis. In an interview with The Wire the year after the album’s release, Sutton claims bluntly that “the band disintegrated because I was getting into using samplers.” For a while he dispensed with rock music entirely and made drum’n’bass as Boymerang. In 2004, a decade after Hex, he revived the Bark Psychosis name without his old bandmates and released ///CODENAME: dustsucker, which married Bark Psychosis’ sleepwalking pop with the scruffier sounds of shoegaze, acid house, and jazz. “I’m not interested in ‘expressing myself,’” he told Stylus about that record. “I’m trying to build something that…changes my mood and draws me through things, radically or violently or imperceptibly. I want to end up at a completely different point than you were at a few minutes ago, but not quite sure how you got there, or even noticed the change happening.”

Though he wasn’t addressing Hex directly, the quote could also describe his band’s debut, a collection of long, slow-moving, and unsettling pieces that capture Bark Psychosis in a period of flux. The music, with its wayward trajectories and myriad detours, expresses the same profound truth that this band on the verge of collapse was grappling with while making it: Change—imperceptible, radical, or otherwise—can’t be stopped.