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Silent Servant
Negative Fascination Ryan Alexander Diduck , September 28th, 2012 09:09

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An old man called Bob Dylan once said something useful like, "it may be the Devil, it may be the Lord, but sooner or later, you're going to have to serve somebody." And when you do, it's probably best not to make a big thing of it. That seems to be the driving modus operandi behind Juan Mendez, aka Silent Servant, who's stoically been serving the darkened, after-hours crowd something decent by which to swing and sway for well over a decade. His sizable oeuvre on the Historia y Violencia label, and with the on-hiatus Sandwell District collective, is among the best no-bullshit techno of the naughties. So, it's a bit surprising that Negative Fascination is Mendez's debut full-length. And it arrives not a moment too soon, making a haunted house a home on Dominick Fernow's Hospital Productions.

Mendez's works aren't churned out as blog fodder afterthoughts; they are empowered by a significant amount of contemplation around what good dance music does: moves bodies, tells stories, alters minds. Track titles like 'The Silent Morning' and 'The Blood of Our King' are concurrently inviting and impenetrable; the printed one-sheets which ran with the earlier Sandwell releases feature images of leather and denim clad rockers with gaping wild animal mouths for heads. Appropriately, the minimal paratext accompanying Silent Servant's new recording reads, "We are mutations of the modern age. Freedom is at will always and forever." Its press release explains, "Negative Fascination bridges disparate factions on ideological grounds," and a sublime object of ideology it is.

Beginning with the instructively titled 'Process (Introduction)," this collection of seven songs unfolds something akin to an alternate alchemical transformation, rising from the fiery soup of vague rhythms and frequencies, bifurcating, fermenting, mercurially coagulating. 'Invocation of Lust' is a sexily sinister affair, scuzzy beats layered beneath sad-romanced string pads and masculine whisperings gapped-and-snipped beyond decipherability. The album hits its stride by 'The Strange Attractor', a pulse-raiser that seductively conjoins steamy, tranced out vocal inflections to an urgent, vacillating tribal tempo.

'Temptation and Desire' opens the second side with a debauched post-punk stomp, its glassy melodies out of tune, slightly, just enough to annoy you into late-night, deeply hallucinatory terrain. Above all, Mendez paints in a deformed urban palette, with the noises of industry and reiterative motion, electrical hum, jackhammers and pile-drivers and vehicles backing up, flirting with mechanical tones and temporalities: i.e. the beat stops when the train's gone past, or when construction is done; it doesn't really give a damn whether or not you work in the morning.

In Gilles Deleuze's prophetic ideological diatribe Postscript on the Societies of Control, he writes, "There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons." And a rusty shiv in the hand is worth two in the bush, as suggested by Negative Fascination's switchblade-and-roses imagery. Should we not all come to a disasterouly utopian end up in some premediated armageddon, it shall be interesting to hear how Silent Servant's already mighty opus progresses. Paraphrasing Deleuze's final thoughts, it's up to each of us to determine which masters we serve, and Mendez is ultimately in the service of something quite sacred: the bloody dance floor.

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Carlos Santos
Sep 28, 2012 3:24pm

After reading the very good review I became immediately interested. I heard the preview and went to Experimedia, only to find out it was already sold out! Excellent music.

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Oct 1, 2012 1:10pm

It's more than the music, this record is opening things up, a brave record ... brilliant.

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wax trax!an
Oct 3, 2012 4:45am

i am enjoying this record a great deal, but it's not really treading much new ground - this could just as easily be a lost mid-period clock dva record as something released this year.

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Oct 3, 2012 11:19am

I love Silent Servant's DJ sets - frequently brilliant meshes of contemporary techno & sterling early '80s basement electronica - but his productions, though viscerally enjoyable, are so steeped with obvious influences that I find it difficult to take them seriously (perhaps we're not supposed to?).

Negative Fascination even LOOKS like a Death In June/Sutcliffe Jugend record, after all.

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Oct 4, 2012 4:31am

In reply to Rooksby:

It might be OK to be part of a tradition. Especially since neither DIJ nor Sutcliffe made bangin' techno records. He's transposing that aesthetic into a new context, which might be a simple trick but produces powerful and interesting atmospheres. And I dig the emphasis on imagery, ethos, etc., even if a lot of the ideas are secondhand.

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Alan Pilliner
Oct 4, 2012 7:42am

In reply to Rooksby:

What DIJ cover does it look like ? The fact remains, it matters little that he wears his influences on his sleeve (what great act doesn't ?) but that he does it in a way that NO ONE else within techno does and that's original by anyone's standards.

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Oct 4, 2012 11:32am

In The same way the Cramps were 'original' playing their brand of hillbilly rock 'n roll ( by then a 4th hand idea ) Silent Servant does what he does and lays down the law with his brand of Techno. He just has great influences, that if we are honest unless you are over 40 will mean very little to your average EDM fan.

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Oct 4, 2012 1:47pm

In reply to Carlos Santos:

wow your comment reads like an ad.

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Braun Buch
Oct 4, 2012 6:22pm

In reply to Alan Pilliner:

Are you actually his boyfriend, or just optimistic?

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Alan Pilliner
Oct 16, 2012 1:59pm

In reply to Braun Buch:

Multiple posts under different names, very impressive.

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John Blonde
Nov 9, 2012 8:00pm

A great album, a new favorite. Others are piled up garning one or two listens but I keep putting this one on again and again.

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