Perc // The Power & The Glory
Label: Perc Trax
Release Date: 24/02/2014
I believe it was a remix of Tim Burgess posted a few years ago that first made me realise the versatility of London-based producer Ali Wells, aka Perc. Whilst he has become best known for a thunderous brand of industrial techno evident on numerous of his records, a look at Wells’ varied release history reveals contrasts; the fogged-out piano musings of a track like ‘Before I Go’ is a fair distance from the pounding, no frills warehouse techno of his EP for Hans Bouffmyhre’s Sleaze Records.
Another manifestation of this tension can be found in the two labels Wells has set up alongside his main imprint Perc Trax. Where the Submit imprint, opened with four uncompromising Einsturzende Neubauten reinterpretations, followed by Feral Grind, a compilation mediating between techno and noise; the aim of his second sub-label Perc Trax LTD, is unapologetically dancefloor centric. His recent second album, The Power & The Glory is arguably further proof of this conflict, and in my opinion, all the more interesting for it.
Wells’ debut album Wicker & Steel was a whirring cacophony of mechanical techno; but vivid melodic themes and a mangled use of vocals make The Power & The Glory feel significantly more dynamic than you would usually expect from a full-length produced by an artist known for techno, putting the LP more in line with the work of Throbbing Gristle or Neubauten than anything else.
Opening track ‘Rotting Sound’ makes a fitting example of this; macabre, Clockwork Orange style synths are interspersed with dalek outcries courtesy of Dethscalator’s Dan Chandler, intermittently breaking through the bed of distorted radio static at the track’s foundations. More interesting perhaps is the spoken-word which begins the track. Taken from a Mike Patton interview the quote introduces the album discussing the idea of using sounds which transpire accidentally or unexpectedly leaving you with ‘this rotten sound that doesn’t belong there’. The soundbite sets a fitting tone for a record which seems in the process of malfunctioning even whilst you listen.
Even those tracks aimed towards club play feature sounds distorted to the point where they feel verging on destruction - straining themselves to the limit. As the leading single, ‘Take Your Body Off’ is strong testimony to this, screeching kicks and clattering percussion are broken once again by the nauseating screams of Dan Chandler, in what feels like an exercise in seeing what Wells can get away with whilst still sneaking the record into DJ’s gigging bags.
The Power & The Glory helps present a well-rounded image of Wells’ past influences; amidst the obvious techno and industrial sounds aforementioned, the aptly titled ‘Galloper’ recalls the sound of early D&B scenes with its jolting breakbeats and discordant rave synths. There is a similar rave heritage to ‘Dumpster’, here the chiming stabs instead call to mind the breakneck warehouse sounds of early UK techno, promoted by James Ruskin and the like.
There have been several full-lengths released by techno affiliated artists in the last few months in what is an undoubtedly fruitful period. The success and uniqueness of The Power & The Glory however, comes from the fact that Wells manages to take a step back from one defining sound (at least as far as genres go) instead presenting an album touched by various strands of electronic music offering an album rich in ideas, making a longer sustained experience than your usual techno-with-a-few-ambient-interludes LP.
Words by Theo Darton-Moore.
EeOo // Workout EP
Label: Unknown To The Unknown
Release Date: 03/03/2014
Unknown to the Unknown: the scribbling-on-the walls with a crayon, Pokemon-card-stealing, attention-deficit kid of UK dance music. Their YouTube channel is a treasure trove of smushed together 90’s signifiers – all dance workout videos, N64 graphics and spliff-rolling mickey-mouse hands. DJ Haus’ label gobbles up everything it can find and spits it out an alarming rate; alarming, not because of the speed of the turnover, but because DJ Haus clearly has such a keen knack for unearthing artists sharing his own irreverent attitude. Talented revivalists with fresh perspective, unafraid to dust off and reassemble genres long thought stale – DJ Q’s brightly coloured speed garage; Murlo’s Nickelodeon-via-Mozart dancehall & grime; spaced out intergalactic house wayfarer Legowelt and UR’s own Detroit-electro assassin DJ Stingray to name a few. The resulting music is often as disorienting as the labels media approach – and equally as often it hits that sweet spot between body moving and brain melting.
Irish producer Eomac - one half of excellent cerebral Techno duo Lakker, and here working as EeOo, announces his induction to UTTU’s ranks in fine style. Taking all the ingredients of your standard 90’s breakbeat rave cookbook – but crucially misremembering the actual cooking instructions, the Workout EP serves up a dish that’s as messy as it is delicious. The tracks bulge under the weight of recycled Beltram hoovers & yo-yoing Sawtooth glissando, with any remaining frequency gaps shored up by white noise percussion. The approach is maximalist in the extreme: every musical layer appears to be locked in a death-struggle with its immediate neighbour. It takes a lot of chops to be able to pull off this approach and not have the whole thing crumbling under its own weight – perhaps it is the subtle detail that is also present – for instance the morphing nature of the parts or the tiny individual sounds which add character and depth.
There are touchstones; but they are exactly that – jumping off points to propel the tracks into ever-greater rhythmic contortions and darker moods. For instance the middle section of ‘Calc’ references that moody, super-swung fast-garage/dubstep aesthetic of the early Hessle releases; the Zomby-esque drunk synth-blip arpeggios on ‘We Are All The Same’s; ‘Battery Baby’ with its demented growling electro bassline and relatively straightforward house beat completely at odds with the madness swirling all around it. Perhaps the freshest track on the EP is ‘Workout’ – mashing up a slow jersey club beat with oddly funky splashes of white noise, moody chromatic bleeps, a tunnelling, oscillating bassline, and (of course) plastic cowbell: it really feels like nothing else. At times the intensity of the noise makes the track hard to listen to – I’ve no idea how well something so boldly noisy might go down in a club – but maybe that’s missing the point. Taken as a whole, the Workout EP sees Eomac cutting loose and engaging his creative process with a delightfully flippant brashness – exorcising the ‘serious’ Techno and exploring new combinations of dance signifiers in a stylistically exciting way.
Words by James Rogers.