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Forward Strategy Group
Labour Division Harry Sword , May 29th, 2012 04:38

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Perc Trax is a label synonymous with thrillingly greasy and debased techno; cathartic beats infused with a stern industrial edge both cranky and raw. For while many latter day techno producers cite vintage industrial as a primary influence, all too often the inherent grit of the music is lost, replaced by a big room sonic boom designed to test the furthest reaches of a Funktion One. The Perc Trax stable of artists, however, explore something of a bloodied nose to tail approach, eschewing smooth production value for a space all their own: a grey scale micro geography of fetid – and very British – aural decay.

Last years Wicker and Steel LP from label boss Perc was a triumph; a fine mess of distorted bass weight and dread atmospherics, sounding resolutely English as much of the wider techno world continued to gravitate towards Berlin.

More recent releases such as ASC's Boundary Scan EP have also revelled in a hard–edged analogue disobedience, marking out an emergent territory that – in sheer rawness, imperfection and belligerence – is unmistakably Perc. This first LP from cult underground duo Forward Strategy Group is a worthy addition to the emergent lineage: a lairy howl in which sinewy beats and bleak urban brutalism collide to fine effect.

Releasing records since 2009, Forward Strategy Group established themselves as cult artists with the Combat Code and Network Infrastructure EPs – both displaying a deft propensity for darkly swung rhythms and grinding heads–down force. Indeed, their productions call to mind the golden age of late 90s British techno  – imprints such as Downwards, Blueprint and Dynamic Tension – but combined with a rhythmically fractured, bass inflected, edge.  

As such, Labour Division is something of a heavyweight excursion – and resolutely dance floor orientated – but if names such as Regis, James Ruskin and Surgeon get your poor overworked jaw muscles twitching in Pavlovian response, then chances are you'll find much to enjoy on this record.  

'Ident' leads off with distorted bass throbs, rain samples and a brittle icy synth lead before 'Mandate' takes over proper. A dirty electro-inflected bin rattler, heavily distorted stabs, crisply gated snares and cavernous kicks build for two minutes before being met by tense pads and tightly layered percussive elements. 'Elegant Mistakes' is a similarly brutal affair. Eschewing the 4/4 for a choppier approach, the beats are layered up against a seething, humming, wall of throb – volleying snares, nasty little edits, echo chamber pads and ticking hats all break through to create something that sounds viral, an infected and alien strain of particularly remorseless future funk. 'Labour Divison' sums it all up succinctly – tension, cathartic release and cleaving, discordant industrial tribalism.  'Nihil Novi', meanwhile, is classic British techno in the 90's tradition – hypnotic, and hinged around a single loop – albeit brought up to date with a surgically precise rhythmic palate.

As is so often the case with the finest British techno, there is a clam–fisted immediacy at play here, a palpable glee that permeates Labour Division. Casual bystanders be warned though; this is a functional techno LP first and foremost. From a DJ perspective, these tracks are all beautifully solid specimens; charged with oblique grit and full frontal motion they will fit into all manner of sets – and the willingness to err on the experimental side of beat structure means this may well not be confined to ears within the techno scene.

Indeed, while Forward Strategy Group has cooked up a serious racket imbued with poise and balance, undoubtedly aimed at serious techno folk – elemental beats for discerning lifers – there is enough chilly industrial atmosphere, decadent night funk and mutant swing on display to see that Labour Division will escape the dank, airless basement it must have surely have sprung from.

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May 29, 2012 12:00pm

"For while many latter day techno producers site vintage industrial as a primary influence"

Or even cite it, too...

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John Thomas
May 29, 2012 3:04pm

"...designed to test the furthest reaches of a Function 1"
Do you mean a "Funktion One system"?

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John Thomas
May 29, 2012 8:39pm

Yeah, changing the spelling from Function to Funktion still doesn't make the sentence make sense.
Funktion One is the name of a manufacturer, not the name of a speaker.

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Thom James
May 29, 2012 9:15pm

An absolute monster of an album. Perc Trax has been on a pretty much untouchable run of form for the last two years.

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May 30, 2012 9:30am

In reply to John Thomas:

Have you ever seen the Alan Partridge where he berates somebody for using the word 'Tannoy' instead of 'Public Address System' because 'Tannoy is the name of a brand and NOT a PA system...'

Actually, reading that sentence back I can see it makes absolutely no sense at all. I should, in fact, have written the following.

'Have you ever seen that EPISODE of Alan Partridge...'

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Harry Sword
May 30, 2012 9:35am

In reply to John Thomas:

I meant to leave my name on the above reply to your message, John - I'm not one for anonymous comments.

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May 31, 2012 4:02pm

In reply to Harry Sword:

you should have written that it was a "Frankenstein techno album" or something like that as well

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Harry Sword
May 31, 2012 5:37pm

In reply to Noel:

Haha, or 'Hoover' somewhere... Doh - I mean 'vacuum cleaner'.

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Jun 2, 2012 4:57pm

good review, great album, but i wonder if you invoked "britain" enough?

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