Posts Tagged ‘Drum ‘n’ Bass’

Distortion Records DIST15 – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb: ‘Beatmatching Metalogue’s cinematic industrial with the dark sci-fi visions of d&b/neurofunk, Decentralized Coercion deals in the threats of mass surveillance, decentralized social control, totalitarian manipulations of trust, runaway artificial intelligence and the addictive mechanisms of the attention economy. The resulting sound is that of Big Data multiplying exponentially, sucking us down in digital whirlpool.’

As well known for their remixing as their own output, and having been featured on a fair few compilations, Metalogue – the vehicle for electronic musician, programmer, and sound designer Robin Fencott – has amassed quite a substantial catalogue in a short time, with an approach to performing that lends itself well to live recordings, of which they’ve released several EPs.

However, the studio work is perhaps the medium through which the details are most discernible, with skittering synths and hectic cymbal stutters providing layers to the stark soundscapes shaped by thumping techno beats. The album’s first track, ‘New Era of Trust’ begins with sonorous atmospherics and a slow, jittery beat, before a woozy bass rolls in. It evokes Bladerunner-esqe images, conjures monochrome city scenes, dark alleys and rusted fire escapes, and 80s sci-fi. It has a certain Nine Inch Nails vibe, but the sounds are crisper, cleaner, and therefore somehow more inhuman and more detached.

Stepping up the tempo and the attack, ‘Spectral Froth Annealment’ clatters and clanks and pounds hard while whirring electronics fizz and grate to forge a bleak, paranoid space, and bleeds into the nine-minute ‘Shadow Text’, which maintains the pace. It’s not the subtle shifts in emphasis that are where these pieces appeal: it’s their relentlessness, their consistency, their clinical sharpness. The treble on the snare sound, the metallic edges, all imbue the album with a coldness that somehow reflects the zeitgeist: we’re surrounded my machines, we’re assaulted by information 24/7, and despite mankind’s unwavering belief in its superiority and capacity to control its environment, it feels increasingly s if that control is being relinquished and handed over to automation. I’m not talking about the way the industrial revolution brought us mechanisation, but that more insidious encroachment whereby Alexa is listening in and Facebook throws adverts having decided what you want to buy based on a conversation or status update from the other day, and your FitBit tells you how far you’ve walked and how many more steps you need to walk in order to burn off the packet of crisps you had mid-morning. We think we own our lives, but that sense of control is illusory. Your employer knows how long you’ve been away from your desk for the toilet, and with cameras every 30 yards (I personally pass no fewer than 13 CCTV cameras on my 23-minute walk to the bus stop on the way to work each morning, and the busses are installed with cameras as well), there is nowhere that’s private, and there is no hiding from the machines. You’re bot paranoid: you really are having your every movement watched or tracked.

Decentralized Coercion is a soundtrack to this harrowing but inescapable fact.

‘Extraction Imperative’ is bleaker, more stripped-back still, the stuttering drum ‘n’ bass rhythms twitchy and tense, and there’s little levity in the trajectory towards the album’s close, ending with the pumping yet magnificently empty ‘Behavioural Surplus’. The beats are whiplash-fast and hard as, but everything else is backed off, distant, creating a distinctly disquieting sensation.

By the finish, I’m left drained, punished, pounded, and pulverized. It’s a microcosm of life. Decentralized Coercion boils it down to a succinct sonic statement that encapsulates that life. It’s harsh, but it’s real.

AA

Metalogue