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Noisia
Split The Atom Iain Moffat , April 14th, 2010 12:14

Before it succumbed to the lure of inspiration-free gigantism, intelligent drum'n'bass was the subject of one of the all-time great backhanded compliments from none other than John Peel, who told the NME he was a great admirer of it because it presupposed the existence of stupid drum'n'bass, which sounded as if it'd be rather appealing. As indeed it was, although there were precious few examples of it, with 'Richard D James' and assorted Mike Paradinas affairs being pretty much the totality of the genre. Still, that's enough of a basis for a revival to be kick-started, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to learn that that's what Netherlanders Noisia had in mind all along...

For one thing, the stall-setting on their debut album is probably the year's most instant and insistent: 'Machine Gun' is an immediate alien distress call, four fabulous minutes of increasingly unhinged smacks, vibrant discord, vibrating coyote daftness and all manner of trepanned ricochets. Little wonder it's already received positive 'Windowlicker' comparisons elsewhere - even in a decade already awash with thrilling absurdity, it does an exemplary job of raising both hell and, frankly, the bar. So much so, in fact, that even the frenetic 'My World' almost struggles to follow it, at least until, ooh, a minute-and-a-half in when a positively Atlantean bassline breaks cover as the surface grows ever more minimal. Yes, it's decidedly old-skool, perhaps, but it's far from alone on that score, and it's not as if there's not a nigh-on callous efficiency to their stroking of those particular buttons: 'Shellshock''s offbeat onslaught is remarkably duck'n'cover (making Foreign Beggars' ever-more-enlivened, popping-past-the-parapet contributions all the more heroic), and 'Stigma' blasts out of a no-chord cyclone with such ferocity that Zomby sounds almost softcore by comparison.

Not that any of this should come as too much of a shock; after all, it's no accident that the trio haven't named themselves Mork Wyatt. What really intrigues, though, is the sheer breadth on show. 'Thursday', for example, is an unusually gorgeous interlude, spring-coiled and sensual almost a la Sebastien Tellier's more spartan moments, and possessed of a minor-chord virtuosity more usually associated with trance. Amon Tobin collaboration 'Sunhammer' is clearly the soundtrack to a horror movie aimed entirely at hyperactive seagulls, and 'Red Heat' even sticks its head round a Cassius cul-de-sac via suacy elastic filtration and glorious wakka-chakka guitars. A spot of junglist juddering is never too far away at any point in time, ensuring that even the briefer endeavours here - of which there are many, although in this case that's indicative of a restless creativity rather than skit-heavy self-indulgence - are momentary respites from the momentum, most notably when the centred piano washes of 'Paper Doll' are swept aside by the metallic melee of 'Dystopia'.

And you know what the really bizarre thing is? These people have worked with Hadouken!, with Moby, even with Robbie Williams, meaning that what five years ago would have been a thoroughly underground release suddenly finds itself jostling in record emporia proper with names of a more household variety, yet more proof, if proof were still needed, that the mainstream is approaching a thoroughly fascinating meltdown; Split The Atom may not quite be aimed at its heart just yet, but Noisia's demands to be heard are liable to be met more widely and warmly than received wisdom ever suggested...

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