Review: Mikron – Foresight EP (Zone)

Mikron – Foresight EP (Zone)

Someone should codify a law of electronic music which states just how much fracturing of a genre takes place in relation to its increasing popularity. You could write a thesis about it I suppose, so often does it seem to happen. Electronica doesn’t seem able to stand too much attention before it shifts and bursts away in a tangle of opposite directions. Electro is the genre which is currently going through one of these occasional growth spurts. It’s done it before, of course, back in the nineties when its more classical sounds exploded into electro-noir, technobass, the, err, less salubrious tones of Miami bass, and whatever the hell you want to call what Drexciya did.

Nowadays the picture is even more fuzzy. Some of it is increasingly hard, aping the velocities of older material. Other strains have slowed down, making space for all manner of deeper elements which emphasis space and beauty until they border on electronic breakbeat fed symphonies. There are even a few forms of the genre coming through now which are taking ideas from the frayed electronica common to the lo-fi house scene. How that one will work out in a genre so long known for sonic precision is anyone’s guess. We’ll see.

For Mikron, the question of where they are now, and where they are going is perhaps a little less set in stone. It has been a couple of years since 2015’s Sleep Paralysis on CPU. That record mixed a fairly straightforward approach to electro with some truly wonderful touches; little moments of beauty which tightened and sharpened the movement of the machines until everything stood out in high-definition drama. Foresight, however, is quite a different beast.

The most noticeable thing about it is how much darker everything has got. While it’s not quite techno-goth it’s a release which has swapped the qualified optimism of the previous record for billowing clouds of mood, and it feels like quite a profound change. In fact, sonically it lies somewhere closer to the carefully constructed, darkened tones of techno acts like Forward Strategy Group and it explores a similar world where the heaviness and weight of the music comes not from distortion, or speed, but from the way the emptiness is filled with forms designed to capture the shadows the music creates.

Virtually every track is primed with an energy that doesn’t so much groove as prowl. While this may actually sound like a drawback, and does indeed require a slight rethink of what it’s all about, the fact is the music is well suited for such a rugged and glowering dynamic. Ulterior and Vanguard in particular make good with this approach. Ulterior spraying the almost industrialised qualities of the breaks and percussion with a strong dose of acid and a stretch out, tortured bleepiness which hold the drama right on the cusp of boiling over. Even the tune’s remix by Exaltics – which accents the sharp tang of the acidic elements – pulses with a similar meanness so deep is it worked into the DNA of the track. Vanguard eschews any of its predecessors pandering to form and convention, instead lengthening the shadows and washing everything over with groaning pads. The breaks here are purely functional; designed less for dancing, they instead hammer out the sheet steel the track wears to reflect warmth and light.

Title track Foresight is a darkside odyssey, grown in the depths, and corkscrewing out from nowhere with prime intent. Its looser, almost funky, but brutally so. And it heaves with repressed rage. It’s both terrifying and addictive, and finds the spot between techno and electro where both genres can deliver on their promises. At the same time, the pressure is alleviated with little breaks of light. A bleak record, yes, but one which refuses to fit easily with the rest, and brings with it more evidence of just how diffuse the genre is getting.

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