As a centre for electronic music Belfast continues to impress. Like Glasgow, Sheffield and Leeds, Belfast is fast turning into one of those hard wee towns that you can count on for some proper quality techno shenanigans, furnishing us with music that is refreshingly removed in attitude and style from the big cities like London and Berlin. In many ways, the output of these smaller and, perhaps, more inclusive electronica communities, are where the underground really shines.
My Part In This Downfall, seemingly the debut release by Irish Duo Primary Node, is perhaps symbolic of this. It’s not an album which gives much quarter, nor does it pander to the current received wisdom that states in forging techno,the overriding aim must be to always get deeper. That said, My Part… stays well away from full on techno bobbins, preferring instead to blend a sound that mixes IDM, electro, and ambient touches with more straight up methods.
Part of what is interesting here is the way that it feels resolutely old-school, harking back to an era when techno, as an art form, had yet to become as heavily codified as it is today. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have it’s share of bangers. Sainted, for example, nods its head more than once at the sort of thing which used to be Surgeon’s bread and butter; a vigorous 4/4 goading on a swelter of morphing tones puts it right out there towards that end of the firmament. Or at least it seems to on first listen. The fact is that there is a lot going on beyond providing simple dancefloor fodder, with rogue frequencies smashing into each other with the intensity of particles in the Hadron Collider. Akras’ sleek, thickly acidic fun lays its mood squarely on the heritage of a generation of early nineties throbbers, translating itself from the here and now into the sort of sharp footed beats Djax used to specialize in.
Even these tracks though, which are easier to place somewhere within techno’s long history, rarely allow themselves to succumb too much to their heritage. When I say that it feels old-school, what I really mean is that the album’s approach to its sound is far more open to experimentalism than you tend to find nowadays, that it is far more interested in seeing what roads the sound lead you down. While there are elements of old Rephlex style sounds here and there, My Part… probably has more in common with the individualistic take on electronica by such artists as Container, particularly with the way in which many of the tunes draw their strength and energy not from the repetition of a small collection of sounds, carefully worked unto death, but mostly in the intricacy of their rhythms, and the way they coil around the rest of the music.
GNXN bucks out serious heat with a deadly combination of a rubbery funky acid line, and a beat that starts of fractured before pulling itself together here and there. HX comes very close to beating out a similar furious step as Container attained on his last album, and the whole track is one long, glorious explosion of rhythmic invention with little to get in the way of the magic being worked. It also pulls at the same sort of flare for dark side hi-jinx we’ve begun to see from a slew of producers like Bruce and Gramcry – mutant techno that is far more informed by shards of jungle and dubstep than anything blatted out by Berghain. Central Control, however, is up there with some of the finest electro I’ve heard in a while – a scintillating burst of evolving mechanical mayhem that weaves in an out of reality.
It’s not a warm album, and not one that is aimed at easy peak time functionality. Those are not drawbacks, but it will require a bit of brain tuning before you get right in there. And while I think that there are a couple too many short, loose, ambient interludes, and that they detract slightly from the albums overall pulse, they still provide just enough of a pause before you’re dragged back into the madness again. As debuts go, this is pretty impressive stuff.