Photo by Camille Blake.
Some may be surprised to hear that this is the debut release from SØS Gunver Ryberg. With performances at Boiler Room, Berlin Atonal, and even a cassette with Cristian Vogel, one would be forgiven for thinking she had already produced an entire library of music. But not so. The nascent Contort imprint, headed by Hayley and Samuel Kerridge, feature as the springboard for Ryberg’s inevitable rise to prominence. The 12” — entitled ‘AFTRYK’ — is an inspired 4-track trip, and the strongest from the label yet.
Ryberg’s sound aims at a midground somewhere between 4am German techno and mind-bending sonic experimentation. She hits her target every time. Take the opening of ‘Skolezit’; it sounds as if we are entering into archetypal ‘sound art’ territory. Scratching high-end and lurking drones drenched in reverb were clearly written with Berlin’s power stations in mind. Yet without much hesitation, Ryberg plunges the listener into an aggressive shuddering pace. There is an unmistakable ‘live element’ to Ryberg’s music. One can even picture a circle of Ryberg clones, each pounding at their own floor tom. But by the end, they have all skulked out of sight, leaving us with nothing but tinnitus in our ears. ‘Pantodont’ follows suit. With such an unrelenting momentum, it becomes harder to keep up with the track as it progresses. Every bar seems to shift pattern with such subtlety that finding a pulse to move along to becomes hopeless. Instead, there is nothing to do but gape at the wonderous intracies of rhythm.
But yet, it’s ‘1170 Siva (Bare Bones)’ that really makes this EP special. Comprised of clattering percussion, the rapidity of each individual hit is hard to take without tensing up. You can hear the clack of the drum machine pushed to its absolute limit, and you can almost imagine smoke bellowing out from its inner electrical workings as it goes into overdrive. The intensity is like staring into a strobe light, each signal coming through in brazen intervals. There is also what appears to be something of a sister track, ‘1170 Siva’, that closes the EP. Here, Ryberg is giving us full disclosure of her process of writing. Clearly, either track on the B-side could have been the final product, but Ryberg boldly puts both together, and it works.
There are clear nods on this EP to the likes of Raster-Noton (Ueno Masaaki’s ‘Vortices’ EP comes particularly to mind). But it just wouldn’t fit as a Noton release. The sheer dank and murky sound is just too far a cry from the pristine cleanness that the label promotes. Contort’s history of leftfield techno parties and an even more leftfield set of releases make it a perfect home for the new producer. Contort, Ryberg and this EP feel completely alive with energy.