Review: Hodge and Randomer – Second Freeze (Livity Sound)

Although to the casual observer it might seem that the forces of darkness are coming out on top in the struggle to destroy what remains of British music and culture, the truth is a far less certain affair. While there is little doubt that the closure of Fabric represents yet another blow against all the things that are important to us, the fact is that when it comes to the actual music, we are in a little bit of a purple patch – and one that seems in no hurry to come to an end.

It’s also worth noting that we are deep in the age of the collaboration, which is an interesting little nugget in itself. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps various producers have now reached that point where, sure of their own abilities and sound, they feel the time is right to push out and experiment a little with other methods. Randomer himself is in the midst of a little run of colabs. He has another one ready to go shortly with Brit techno don Perc, and this release with Hodge follows another with Cadans with whom he has worked before.

The recent Cadans colab record was enjoyable enough in a booming warehousey sort of way, although it lack a little something with regards to his usual mix of spice and texture, especially since it came up hard against his Running Dry release for Dekmantel which was a wee charmer of a record, thick with humidity warped rhythms and alien, tribal snap. Hodge, in comparison, has been relatively quiet of late, his last appearance being the glimmering, epic beauty of last year’s Forms Of Life for Berceuse Heroique.

Second Freeze is one of those beasts where the talents of both sides of the collaboration merge into a seamless whole. That’s usually a good sign, evidencing both sides of the partnership coming together on the same wavelength regarless of how different their own solo work might be. And so it is here. While the drums perhaps owe more to Randomer’s tastes for punchy polyrhythms, replete with the spikey tribal overtones which made Running Dry such a fun kicker, than they do to Hodge’s usual work outs, the rest is a mist of ideas – some ethereal, some harder – which nestle against the beats and widen the otherwise compressed fury into something more progressive and other-worldly.

This is especially true on Simple As which opens out from Second Freeze’s tighter yet simpler motifs and reaches towards something that is both more hypnotic and primal. Usually we throw the term ‘tribal’ around as a form of lazy short hand for something that is slightly less Western sounding that the typical techno record. Here, though, it eschews the commonplace, and pushes the mood backwards through history, ‘tribal’ here taking on connotations of a rave at the dawn of time. Think of those monkey lads from 2001 getting mental on fermented roots and dancing around the monolith and you’re getting close. Beyond that a large part of the record’s charms lies in the way that any unnecessary movement has been pared down. In its own firestarting way, this is minimalism reworked; entirely about the interplay of the beats and the mood. While Second Freeze occasionally lacks something of the individual touches which makes Hodge and Randomer’s regular work such buy-on-sight releases, it still contains more invention and fun than a whole gang of careful, purist techno and house, as well as being a classy example of why Brit electronica remains such an important – and ever evolving – force.