Review: Steve Summers – CCCP13 (Russian Torrent Versions)

Although LIES sub label Russian Torrent Versions is in no danger of accelerating past the prodigious output of its parent in terms of shear volume of releases, it might well be on its way to overtaking it as far as raw quality is concerned. Although even RTV now seems to boast a release schedule would put almost all other labels except LIES to shame, there is still very much the feeling that it remains a splinter of the New York Labels usual material, a premium brand dedicated to a smaller cut of LIES growing diversity and experimentalism where quality is paramount.

At some point over the last few months, however, Russian Torrent Versions transitioned from an interesting yet esoteric satellite to a major deal in itself. And although there has been the occasional downward turn along the way, it’s otherwise unblemished rise can hardly be disputed. In fact, the records by NGLY and Person Of Interest, as well as the brutal, clattering skank supplied by British artist Randomer, have actually been better than almost anything on LIES itself this year (save, interestingly, the LIES releases by those same artists and a kicking release by Inhalants.) Part of RTVs charm lies in the opportunities it has afforded to various LIES alumni to branch out into braver, murkier territory – sometimes hidden by new guises at least until the Discogs posse root out the truth.

Steve Summers is the latest LIES old boy to work his way eastward. He’s an interesting choice for the label. Musically far less harsh than some of the acts, he combines a subtlety and analogue warmth to finely tooled machine workouts that keeps him separate from some of the labels more head-banging stars. Even so, across CCCP 13’s three tracks he cuts out a growling, prowling arc where the music struts instead of pounds. Its immediate successor in terms of heritage is probably his own ‘Outermaze’ EP for LIES which appeared last year, and upped the respect given to the American producer. CCCP 13 is in a similar style but dirtier and looser. All three of the tunes keep the tempo down. Jack them up, though, and mix them in with some fine Chicago nastiness courtesy of QX1 or similar and the effect is electrifying.

Don’t let that sound like I’m trying to do them down. All three take ground on their own bruising merits. The QX1 tip is a useful guide, though. Summer’s taste for stripped down Chi-town jackers has probably never been more apparent than here, and they all owe a debt to the vigorous and banging nature of the underground. Opener Anhedonia is a trippy rocker where airy, almost spectral melodies roll above the clanking body music, turning on a die and growing boisterous on its sodden adrenal work out. Partial Print cranks it up into proper thug music territory. Peels and squalls of distortion patrol the length of the tune, occasionally breaking away to allow the heavy thunder of falling toms to take over. It’s far closer to Summer’s live sets than most of his recorded output and benefits from the freedom granted, a darkened alleyway of ideas where frequencies mug the muses.

Pick of the bunch is Blank Frames Which combines a restraining hand with a scuzzy, anxious atmosphere. It’s easily the most indebted to Chicago, to the extent you keep waiting for a vocal to pick up the baton. Instead we get a perfectly weighted riff that just about emerges from the filthy swell of the bass and the just about perfect percussion. A true jacker whose only failing is to be half as long as you want it to be.