Review: TX Connect – Untimely Emotions (Computer Controlled Records)

Gavin Guthrie’s sound has been developing nicely over the three years since his first appearance on DABJ Allstars Vol 1, and while I still tend to think of it as something generally old school and acidic ( My fault, I think of everything like that), I’m beginning to pay attention to its other qualities. The fact is that my labeling the music of TX Connect as acid house is neither accurate or fair. Yes, those acidy influences are strong, and certainly soak into his sound, but they are simply the most noticeable elements of a mix of stylistic leanings that take in the colder moods of EBM, Jackbeat, synth experimentalism and much else along side the thicker, warmer house touches.

At times in the past there was perhaps a slightly fragile air to some of the music, a brittle quality that while never really detracting from the impact still managed to colour the jacking nature of the tunes with a frostier edge more often found in IDM, say. As I said, it did not tend to detract, and tempered even the more upfront music with a taut, nervy energy that echoed back to a time before house stamped its authority on electronica. It was, in fact, quite a unique sound. And that’s something that is increasingly rare in modern house.

Untimely Emotions is an interesting and timely maturation of those qualities. I’m actually loathe to use the word ‘maturation’ there for all its connotations of sensible growth and lack of danger, but there seems to be a greater sense of depth, and a blossoming understanding of the ways in which these various elements can go together, work together, that anchors these two sounds to common themes and vibes. That the straight up acid touches have been reduced probably helps, allowing as it does for other moods and energies to come to the fore. More than that, the iciness which filled up some of the space in previous tunes has thawed, giving room for a prowling, looser, funk to get in there.

It’s not always an entirely successful trade-off. Durable Chin ends up the weakest of the four tracks on offer precisely due to this looseness and the way it draws away from the tune’s building heaviness. The growling bass, which grows stronger as the tune unfolds, never quite manages to get the tune going in the right direction, and the high popping hits out on the rim of the sound seem to pull the tune apart a little too much, siphoning energy away from its heart. It stumbles forward when it should stalk.

But its a rare misadventure that is unrepeated, and Untimely Emotions is better served by a tune like Crystal Clear, a weirdly gentle scatter-shot of silvery electronics that haunts the intersection between Detroit and the open expanse of mid-nineties experimentalism where you used to find The Black Dog. Its groove is not carried on the drums, but fluctuates along the bleeps and blips, and washes of scuffed up sound that are pitched so that they never quite overwhelm. Decontructionist techno, perhaps, with every element doing its own job but adding up to a cheeky and effective whole.

It’s on Not Here that the record really moves up a gear, delivering on Durable Chin’s promised menace with a pitch black, prowling mood, and combining a sleek, slo-mo techno stomp with echoes of warehouse rave and sultry strobe lit house. I wasn’t sure that it was fast enough, at first, but after a couple of listens I saw the sense in it. The pace allows the tune to throb. Any faster and that would have been burned away by the heat of velocity. It probably TX Connect’s best tune since Cheetah Blades way back on his Bad Mums release from 2014. Both tracks have a similar mean charm, and funnel a similar chaos into a tight internal space.

It’s still recognizably TX Connect, but it’s a TX Connect for whom his various tastes and influences are beginning to really coalesce into a strong and singular sonic form. The difference this time around is simply that where in the past those influences were held up and held out as points of reference, they are now marshaled into a stronger role where they finally and properly inform, warm, and provide nuance to an increasingly individual voice without ever taking too much space up centre stage. An important record for TX Connect. A lot of fun for us.