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.