Review: Cienfuegos – A Los Mártires


An expatriate from Miami, Alex Suarez has already made an appearance on the Unknown Precept label – undertaking mixing duties on Nick Klein’s blistering ‘Failed Devotee’ release. As with Klein’s missive and the releases of the label to date, this is techno with a black eye – almost dissolved in damage yet still borne along by frayed, post-industrial aggravation. 

Although characteristically cracked, there’s a striking sophistication to the sound design which betrays Suarez’s previous form as a mixing engineer. It’s a rarefied clarity within piercing noise-based ferocity that’s immediately and discernibly potent on ‘Resolution’, where unfathomably deep, muffled groans are punctuated by scorched bass drum beatdowns. ‘Descending Order’ continues in this vein with crisp, subterranean drip-feed samples but eventually spills into bedlam; distorted glossolalia, decayed metal creaks and ominous bass moorings progressively layered on top of each other like small, chaotic avalanches. 

Although it’s hard to pick out anything the voices say within the chaos, there are hints in the rushed, passionate cadences which indicate some kind of seditious speech, a notion supported by the label’s notes which suggest the EP was ‘Conceived as an ode to those who spilt their blood in vain for political ideologies that failed them and countries that were never their homes’. Political martyrdom is an interesting issue to touch on but it’s one that’s appropriately left to mystery and used as a suitably powerful basis for the dark and torn sonic world that Suarez assembles, rather than a ruling presence. Though the rigour of Suarez’s engagement isn’t the kind that Dominic Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project deals in, there’s an affiliation in the intent to explore such profound, political preoccupations. 

Ambiguous, confrontational airs continue in the stand-out title track, with masked, orotund vocals which bare their teeth in buried snarls but remain menacingly indecipherable. In keeping with the sparse relentlessness of the EP, the trajectory remains on one plane – hammering home incessant claps, tinny percussive loops and full-bodied bass bin pounds in a devastatingly hypnotic affair. ‘Correspondence’ hints at Suarez’s range; a droning interlude of stagnant collapse which offsets momentum before ‘Faceless’ finishes things on a fiery, high-speed, dread-tinged finale. It concludes an EP which reveals promise in moments of polished framing and conflictingly harsh, in-the-red imbalances and also continues UP's worthy work in making techno a thrillingly disfigured and uncontained premise.