In Cienfuegos’ ‘A Los Martires’, it felt like Unknown Precept were really nailing their calling card. It was ‘techno with a black eye’, but had serious undertones rippling beneath it’s rough voltaic gnarls and dense hollowed-out thuds. Like a shock therapy swirl punctuated by a slow, constant rain of breeze block clatter, it felt unnervingly poised on the edge of some unforeseeable terror. The nature of it all was perhaps unsurprising. After all, Alex Suarez had named the project after a revolutionary Cuban general and has since cited violence, dashed political ideologies and the transience of living in nomadic flux as major motivations and experiential evocations for the music of UP’s last release.
The label heralds 2016 with two smaller scale but no less enthralling tape releases from Eindkrak and IXVLF. The former comes from Amsterdam’s Boris Post and while his reference points may be less overtly dictated by issues of identity and political significance, they’re still constituted by presences which might be unanticipated on a casual listen. The poetry of Dylan Thomas is a supposed inspiration though not an obvious one based on what’s contained in the spiky, mutated engineering that defines these tracks.
On ‘The Slow Milk Dance’ it sounds like the solid, tinny clip of scaffolding is being used for percussive force and ever so slightly corrupted in sound, as if acid were melting its matter. ‘Diving Bovine’ sets it up well, with crude horror movie theme tones and fierce bottomed-out drubs. But it’s ‘Ontvreemd’ which raises the heart rate more, with scratch damage sonics and vocals like someone spitting poison from diseased guts. The intensity continues to ascend on ‘Go Away Crow’, which affirms Post’s sound as the monstrous result of leftover fluids; residual leakage and bleed gleaned from Detroit electro, the static snarls of early Cabaret Voltaire, the theatre of Skinny Puppy and the more recent gruesome wave music of Beau Wanzer. It’s almost as if the carcass of electro has been divested of flesh by mishandled tools, it’s brazen futurism transformed with grotty industrial deviancy. It’s last track – ‘Say Nay’ - is its best, a scorched metallic writhe that’s kept in vicarious steadiness by crude drum machine severity. Rotten to its core yet very much alive. To rehash and blasphemize Thomas, it goes kicking and screaming into that good night.
Connor Clasen aka IXVLF unloads similarly harsh sounds on ‘Language Of’ yet on opening with ‘Course’ it’s immediately discernible that his profile is more of a gauzy facelifted frontage. Sample-delic EBM and dub-heavy house conjures up a visage of smeared lipstick and blurred features rather than the distortive, melted-flesh depictions of Eindkrak. It’s like the chasmal metal dance brutalism of DAF replicated under a viscous, narcotic fug, the kind Not Not Fun and 1080p have infiltrated dance music with in respective outlying slants on house, techno and the nebulous bits between and beyond.
‘Golden Horde’ further establishes the sense that this is possibly UP’s most dancefloor ready offering yet, a moment which holds panic and hedonism together through wrecked machine effects, a technological wrongness that has semblances of Adrian Sherwood’s audacious layers of echo and reverb.
Clasen’s sound gets more heavy and more sour as things progress, with a tunnelled grotesque gargle of noise on ‘Stregharia’ and relentless elusively structured drums defining the hypnotic paranoia of ‘Dicot’. With ‘Corata’ and ‘Walls’ Clasen consolidates the upfront incision of these initial efforts with the uncanny misdirection of the midway tracks which follow them. Again ‘Corata’ sits on piles of head spinning effects, loaded with dub disembodiment but driven by a revolving bluster of sub-bass and glassy percussion, whilst ‘Walls’ makes it’s drums and burnt notes of synth noise a series of broadsides and its vocals an elongated growl, together forming a heinous party music. When Clasen draws close to that impulse, especially on ‘Course’, ‘Corata’, and ‘Walls’, he’s at his best.
It feels wrong, in light of the strange and extreme character of each of these tapes, to attribute the UP label with reliability, yet fitting too, as these releases continue to arrive. Along with the likes of Nostilevo, Ascetic House, and Chondritic Sound, UP need to keep doing whatever it is they’re doing.