Review: Peder Mannerfelt – Equality Now (Numbers)

It’s impossible to keep up with everything that happens in the exciting world of electronica, you know, and it seems I’ve missed out on the work of Peder Mannerfelt. Well, maybe not missed out, because I have been aware of his work in one way or another for a while, although fate has not conspired to bring me into more than passing contact with it. That probably won’t be enough to stop the mocking laughter of the Kids in the Know but such is life.

I’m actually a little surprised his new EP, Equality Now, has found a home on Numbers. Even for a label that takes an obvious delight in throwing regular left turns into their release schedule, Equality Now blazes off towards an oddly angled silicone horizon all of its own. That makes it sound like its right out there, and although that is a definite attraction of the music, the fact is that it has a certain energy which will be familiar to anyone who have taken an interest in the newer sounds coming out of the various British scenes just now where moods, genres, and meanings are taken apart and rebuilt into something that is both recognizable yet new.

This is something of a theme throughout Equality Now. Whether intentional or not, I don’t know, but there is sure feel of things being opened up and screwed with, like a kid with a remote control car who wants to see whether or not he can make it go faster, or drive underwater. The title track, perhaps the most conventionally dancefloor-ish track on offer here, booms with the jacking menace of a stripped down Green Velvet. The rogue snares accent that vibe right enough, but beyond and below that there is a surging emptiness which holds the energy playfully below the threshold for full take off, allowing the mood to stretch out and get right inside your head.

This sense of taut control continues into Breaking Pattern, but while the tune loses an element of Equality Now’s bleak and dispassionate charm, it replaces it with an edge of experimentalism which ripples with esoteric machinic rhythms and grooves. Tunes predicated on little more than textured rhythms and beats tend to lose themselves along the way more often than not, as if removing an over arching organic guidance slices away their meaning. Here the beats are very much in control, growing ever more bolshy and subtly bruising. The wiry screech of the pads adds a nervousness to the groove’s hypnotic roll, like being locked in a trance that’s slowly going wrong. It’s a fascinating and ever so slightly scary re-imagining of an old staple. In some senses the tune can be almost viewed as a tool, at least it might be if it didn’t assert its independence from techno convention so strongly.

By the time you reach Rules, Ropes and Strings you’ll be in mental sweats, and be ready for what starts off as something slighter and chilled. Whether you’ll still feel like that at the end is debatable. Its softer edges, its rivulets of colour and slowly warping texture, its single ringing chord, may at first lull you into a false sense of security, but the same sense of disorientation as the other two tunes underpins everything here. Its haunting in exactly the right way; nothing slight about it. The down tempo mood accents a profoundly dreamlike quality where shapes and shadows slowly, seductively, run riot.