Following the continent wide jump to the right this week, my mind has been heavily occupied by thoughts of Europe. Mainly, I’ve been going through a lot of music and marvelling in the way the scenes of various countries have each taken the basic blueprints of House and Techno and, informed by their own tastes and ideas as well as those of their neighbours, have gone on to create new forms of electronic music that have furthered the sound into new and diverse areas.
The Netherlands, which concern us here, have long been the home of fearsome Acid Techno and Electro, straight up and experimental in almost equal amounts. Whether we’re talking about the slightly horrific Natural-Disaster-In-Musical-Form of Gabba, I-F’s Blackhole electro or Legowelt’s analogue adventures in pure sound it’s arguable that The Netherlands have probably had an impact of the continents development of electronica to rival Britain and Germany whilst being very, very different in feel and tone.
Monocorpse’s album, Demo 2013, is more of that mix of the straight up and the experimental. Billed as an electronic interpretation of a 1985 documentary about Voodoo called ‘Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti’ by the Ukrainian born film-maker Maya Deren, it’s a heavy, sometimes murky journey through shade and texture. The meat of the record, the actual Techno tracks, are inter-spaced with clips from the documentary – often wild drumming and chanting under coldly dispassionate narration which gives the clip the gleefully disturbing feel of a travelogue from the edge of belief. They work well; the juxtaposition between them and the Techno gives space and light to the album, partly rendering a slight air of disorientation when you come up to breathe.
The tracks themselves are dark and stalking. Some, like Arrival or Conflict weld Acidic rhythms and shapes to snaking analogue and wurlizter-esque synths that threaten with their madness. Others, like Departure are shuffling, half-stepped rituals designed to blot out the sun. Beyond that, tracks like the serrated, distorted November 2nd border on cosmic horror; final, untranslatable communications from a collapsing star.
At first listen it might seem that the claims of interpretations of Voodoo are weighty, perhaps slightly unfounded. But the cadence of the ritual is deconstructed, woven into the fabric of the music at a fundamental level, in such a way that the tunes themselves become the writhing rhythm. This is most obvious in the brace at the centre of the record, 1st Offer and Serviteur, where the subtle oscillations of the Fog thick sub bass shepherd crackling drums into territories most recently visited by the likes of Ancient Methods. 1st Offer itself is a rolling, pitch black tribal stomper, possibly the finest moment on the album, a snarling hymn to abandon. 3rd Offer, a few tracks further on, is the counter position; a creeping loa of smoke and metal, watching and waiting for its way in, that is no less potent in its quiet violence.
Whether Demo 2013 fulfils its own brief as far as interpretations go is probably going to be a question the listener will have to decide for themselves, and anyone expecting a storm of polyrhythms and chanting are likely to leave with a tinge of disappointment, but for those looking for sound informed by the dark dream of belief, there is plenty here to be going on with. A soundtrack of extremes from the Underground.