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Abdulla Rashim
Unanimity Albert Freeman , May 14th, 2014 10:12

Sweden has recently seen an upswing in techno creativity, most obviously in the work of Skudge, but since they emerged to success, both interest and activity has been spreading. Avian's Shxcxchcxsh duo may be the latest Swedes to enter the fray with acclaim, but since 2011 the underground buzz has been building for Abdulla Rashim, a producer from the north whose true identity has remained mysterious. Since the beginning, he has been known for heavily textured techno that occasionally crossed over into ambient areas, but as years have passed his sound has moved further into maturity and begun to embrace a more searching direction. Initially releasing material predominantly on his own eponymous imprint, Rashim has now launched his new Northern Electronics label to openly court drone and ambient ideas, and he has chosen this new outlet for his debut album, Unanimity.

The decision to move forwards with his second label represents an evolutionary step for the producer rather than a sea change. With experimentally-inclined dance music rising to prominence in the past four years, his stated intent with his new project is timely for a producer whose music had habitually occupied the fringes of the deep techno scene he was initially associated with. Since the beginning, it was clear that Abdulla Rashim's central concern was atmosphere, with rhythm coming in a close second. A deliberate shift towards drone and sound design in music that already hovered more than it strode forward should be seen as him coming out of the safety of his techno shell rather than him radically changing his sound. With the safety net dropped, he is free to explore and solidify the dirtier drift of his music with a heavier analogue heft, and a thicker, more layered sound palette.

Abdulla Rashim's techno never landed on the kinetic side of the spectrum, and Unanimity shows that, in removing the expectation that it move bodies and the requirement that it exists solely on 12"s designed to be played by DJs, he has advanced significantly further forwards in his quest for a unique sound. Although the noise and drone influences have been coming ever closer to the surface on the series of 12"s he released on his original self-titled label, from the opener here, appropriately titled 'Under A Wasted Sky', they are much more clearly in the foreground. The rhythm programming usually only suggests motion, even in comparison to many similar artists on Prologue, and the basslines rarely exceed one pitch, but the increased layering lends a feeling of immersion that the more insistent music created in this camp often lacks. Also notably absent is any tendency towards progressive sounds; his music is simply too ominous and downcast, even at its lightest moments, and his interest lies more in noise, texture and classic analog synthetic techniques than in creating DJ fodder.

A piece like the purely kosmische 'No Borders' shares an uncomfortable amount of ground with the subsequent 'Moral Blindness', in spite of the fact that while the former lacks any drums at all, the latter, at double the length, explores similar territories of microscopic modulations and psychoacoustics while tying it to one of his characteristically-stationary beat structures. A lone higher-pitched percussion element repeats through most of the length, apparently out of time with the rest and syncing up only every few bars. 'Afar Depression' goes further and abandons 4/4 entirely for a triplet-based beat in 12/8 and more ghostly, heavily modulated pads that consistently float in the foreground while the rhythmic elements slowly develop underneath. Its tempo also lands far outside of techno territory in the low 70BPM range, and there's a nagging suggestion of a 2-against-3 polyrhythm throughout.  

The closing title track, otherwise one of the most propulsive on the record, remains resolutely in 3/4 throughout its duration, undercutting its dancefloor utility but not at all sabotaging the producer's intent. 'No God', the most conventional piece in the second half, may keep its beats straight but edges closer to a frightening drone freakout than a dance floor workout. In this context, an effort like 'Red Uprising', while resolutely idiosyncratic and in sync with the rest of the album's ideas, sounds nearly uncomfortably conventional in its straight-ahead rhythmic focus and more traditional use of filters to contour the static drum tracks.

In liberating his music from the stringent requirements of the DJ-centered 12" format and rigorously experimenting with texture, production depth, noise, and rhythm, Unanimity has reached a level of accomplishment not previously found in Abdulla Rashim's oeuvre. That he has chosen to do this on a new label that embraces other artists even further from the techno with which he made his start, is both brave and admirable, even if it is in keeping with recent developments in electronic music. As before, his sound remains keenly further out than most, and even with the increasing amount of modern kosmiche music being made, it is still rare to find it being done quite so well as it is here. As the limitations of dancefloor music continue to be stretched and broken, many other producers are sure to follow this route; listeners can only hope the results stand up quite as well as what is found here.

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