Review: Tuff Sherm – Smugglers Bureau (Berceuse Heroique)

Over the last few seasons, there have been the beginnings of a change in the mood of electronic music. Although there is still plenty of euphoric, shimmering aural debauchery out there for you to escape the daily grind with, there has been a slow return of eclecticism, experimentalism and grittiness to House and Techno. Where the recent craze for ‘Industrial Techno’ could perhaps be seen as a reaction to the anodyne stylings of Minimal and Tech-House, its less easy to define a start point for the current crop of Analogue feeling, tape saturated music that is rising like a drunk Neptune above a sea of bland, polished pap. Labels like the two tapes – Trilogy and Opal – along side Berceuse Heroique, are doing a fine job of raising this new crop and bringing it to our attention, and adding a verve that is part genuine Indy, part punk, part art-house to the proceedings.

Tuff Sherm has become one of leading proponents of this new breed. The Australian artist, interestingly, has now released material on all three of the above mentioned labels which is a hat trick anyone could be proud of. For a musician who works almost entirely in the box, he has a pronounced talent for making the music buck and kick and sing like it’s been forced through all manner of vintage, archaic gear.

Smugglers Bureau is a contemptuous, grizzly sneer of brute texture. Barely breaking 115 BPM, it rolls along like a mean, drunken rant, spitting out shards of raw sound at anyone who disagrees with it and backed up by feral super-fuzzy kicks and percussion wirey enough to strangle you with. It’s not a party tune. Or rather it is, but its the sort where you bring your own or get a kicking.

Easy Company is a slumped, funky strut – like Tom Waits discovering House. A symphony of chimes and hammer blows cloak a rasping bass and ringing riff. Somewhere in the back, in the basement, a synth rises like a slight breaze; not so much a sound as a slight unsettling tone, its gone before you realise it was there, leaving you nervous for your health.

The Delroy Edwards Mix of Easy Company hovers somewhere between his own dance floor orientated, Ghetto-House tinged music for L.I.E.S and his more recent and experimental work. It’s finely downbeat – a House tune pushed into the aftermath of electro-convulsive therapy – the aching, swelling chords sit back in the mix, leaving the limelight to a twisting, watery acid line and the pop and snap of the drums. Strangely for someone who listens to so much House and Techno, I’m not always an enormous fan of remixes – consider it an oddball quirk – but this makes perfect sense, especially given Edward’s own journey towards the more abstract end of the spectrum.

This is a proper limited pressing by all accounts but really, try and pick it up before the Discogs profiteers get near it. Three tracks of ragged grace. Proper Techno of the new breed.

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