Review: Duplex – Dark Synthesis (DPX Recordings)
It took my work-stained brain about 20 minutes to figure out that the record played from the inside out instead of the other, normal, way. I’m not usually that slow, but being knackered certainly has its effects. Besides, I can’t think of another 12″ I’ve bought in a very, very long time that screws with you on such a fundamental level. It used to be, well, not exactly common, but frequent enough that it wasn’t really a surprise, especially if you were buying records pressed by Detroit’s National Sound Corporation, an outfit who delighted in messing with conventions in all sorts of ways.
Anyway, enough of the format trickery. Dark Synthesis represents the return of the Dutch duo with their first solo EP in about three years. There seems to be a wee bit of Duplexyness in the air just now, as there’s also a repress of their Below The Photic Zone EP on Harbour City Sorrow kicking around, so maybe they’re getting up a head of steam once again. I hope so, having always had a liking for their very Detroit-ish blend of electro and high-tech soul.
Let’s say this right now: Dark Synthesis feels outwardly quite different from a lot of their previous work where a certain amount of techno toughness was tempered by a sincere fragility and melodic width; even their very earliest material on Djax wove a sort of bleak beauty into the alien beats, and always felt as if it was looking beyond the dancefloor, eyes firmly fixed on the stars.
Not that should detract from what’s on offer here, even though it’s a slender release. The original track, backed by an Alden Tyrell remix, immediately jabs in a different direction. It’s harder than anything I can remember them doing before (although I’m no expert on them so I’m maybe misremembering), mostly due to the presence of a huge, dirty bass and grimy percussion. It also features a sample from Reese’s Funky Funk Funk, or so I’m told. Fair enough, I’m pretty dreadful about noticing such things, but the tunes does heave itself around in a similar way to Kevin Saunderson’s early, life affirming rave filtering energy so I won’t discount it. Interestingly, the record Funky Funk Funk comes from, Inside Out, also runs, err, inside out. Aside from that, though, Dark Synthesis is a pure knockaround, at times fuelling itself with a sort of bouncy big beat thrill, at others breaking away into tight, strobe lit fantasy, and carrying with it something that puts you in mind of a strain of early 90s house and techno which would burst around in different directions from one bar to the next.
The remix, from Tyrell, straightens out the tune in many ways, but instantly adds kinks of its own, mainly in the form of the far more tribally percussion which shepherds the music into a very different direction. Less cheekily in your face, more serious and dangerous, it reworks Dark Synthesis until it becomes a pulsing builder, constantly jacking itself upwards. Again, though, it captures an earlier vibe, one that recalls an era when tunes were allowed to cause dancefloor mayhem without worrying about anything else. I reckon it would do the same job now, and it certainly hits itself up as the sort of particularly hefty tool that’ll get things sweaty at a certain time of night.