Review: Scenedrone – Fire Hazard (Acroplane Recordings)

As a label, Acroplane’s output can be a slightly difficult sell for those unfamiliar with the music they champion, and their sound – which draw from a mix of influences ranging from acid, hardcore, rugged, broken electronica, and harsh experimentalism – can seem unyielding and bleak to those unfamiliar with them. But once you get beyond the surface noise a far more complex picture emerges of a fiercely individual label pushing an ethos which has virtually nothing to do with current trends and everything to do with enabling a form of techno in which the need to invent and widen the borders takes centre stage.

Given that, Irish producer Scenedrone’s first record on the label, Fire Hazard, is perhaps Acroplane’s most accessible release since Posthuman’s Nebula from back in 2012. I use the word ‘Accessible’ advisedly here. We’re not talking about an EP of join-the-dots tech-house, nor are we discussing something in the strain of the usual beige, big room bangers which are so commonplace just now. It is a hard record, full of serrated beats, unsettling rhythms, and disorientating bursts of snarling energy. And that’s just Fire Hazard’s more obvious good points.

In a sense, its accessibility comes from the fact that it shares a psychic space with several other of the scene’s young turks. Elements of it recall Blawan, for instance. There is a similar noisy swagger to the tunes; a sandblast cleansing feel of hardware being subtly and not so subtly hurt. It internalizes the energy more than Blawan does, however, restraining and redirecting, orchestrating the sonic violence. It’s particularly noticeable on the raucous lash-out of Chicken House, for instance, where the welter of beats vies for space with the cavernous rumble of bass and taut percussion, or on Fire Hazard itself, a furious but focussed corkscrewing jab of energy like a drillbit made of frequency.

What it doesn’t do is fall back on easy techno archetypes, and in that both the record and the producer are good fits for Acroplane. Here and there it touches on the swirling electrification that label-mate Eomac has made his own. Rick and Morty holds back on the rawness and cleans up the beats, but there is a dissonance and creeping sense of unease that gradually claw their way to the surface, injecting the poisonously playful groove with a measured coldness. The record revisits the scene on Bang That Shit, although the effectiveness is hampered by the slight feel of it being too much of a reprise, and it lacks Rick and Morty’s depth, at least until the bastard huge slab of disturbed, distorted bass ports in from a broken dimension to tie everything together.

Fire Hazard’s charms lie in the way that, for all the superficial familiarity (enough perhaps to almost be regarded as part of a scene), it walks its own road, and brings with it something that feels fresh. Often with the gritty, dirtier end of the new-techno, the effect it lessened by too much reliance on being a bit tongue in cheek. That’s not a criticism you can aim at Fire Hazard – it’s serious in its purpose, cuts out the more cartoonist elements and uses grooves and experimentalism to lighten what could have easily been a little too fearsomely stomping. Nicely brutal.