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Surgeon
Tresor 97-99 Harry Sword , June 16th, 2015 07:54

Elegant functionality; slab weaving; the hidden hand; cleaving staves of measured detonation; exercises in fractal manipulation that hypnotise and move without a trace of bloat; music that comes in hypnotic waves and puts a room right in the moment. This stern focus - palpable intention of purpose - has been the hallmark of Anthony Child's music and performance for many years.

And while terms like "brutal" are often attached to his music, its elegance, poise and playfulness are every bit as present in the wall of sonic sinew. Initially putting out music on his own labels - Dynamic Tension and Counterbalance - as well as Downwards Records (run by frequent collaborator Regis), Surgeon has been putting out tunes since 1994, but came to mass attention through the inclusion of a number of his tracks on Jeff Mills seminal whiplash session Live At The Liquid Rooms in 1996. His influences are wide roaming - the dark sexual energy of Coil and leather cluck clatter nihilism of Suicide are often mentioned - and the industrial West Midlands, particularly the wilfully unprofessional irreverence of Birmingham's infamous House Of God club night where Child has long been resident - is writ large on his music.

However, it was the alliance Child formed with the Berlin techno powerhouse Tresor - both as club resident and recording artist - that put him on the international map and took him around the world. The three albums he made for the label between 1997 and 1999 still sound remarkable, combining obtuse sound design (strange industrial noise; found sound; a dub wizard propensity for live desk effects), banging physicality and compelling listenability (Matt Colton has done a fantastically punchy job remastering all three records).

Indeed, while techno albums can be hard going, these three are remarkably cohesive: not as some ticker taped "journey", but simply as enjoyably unpredictable, bouncy and steely excursions into Child's musical mind. Squeezing a huge amount of music from sparse elements, Surgeon tempers ostensibly dark material with palpable uplift and joy: true energy transference.

Basictonalvocabluary was released in 1997 and solidified his reputation as a master of hypnotic sound design. Tracks like 'First' hinge on clean, clicky hi-hats pushing things along at a belting pace while reverberating stabs duck around the mix, a Robert Hood-esque minimal bounce tempered by cavernous subs. 'Krautrock' - equally energetic but far more sinister - repeats a strange little string loop that sounds like a detuned banjo, while 'Scorn' sounds rather like some of the early Blueprint records, a rainy sci-fi influenced palate of sound. Midnight trawl through the interzone.

1998's Balance was more expansive, tracks such as 'Golden' exploring lower tempos with creepy soundtrack vibes, evoking images of some drunken lumberjack running out of options deep in the backwoods. 'Circles' is a booming loop totally hypnotic in execution (indeed, it evokes the numbing breeze-block force of Female's Into The Exotic LP released on Downwards the year before) a continuous dark pound, ground rat poison seeping into the Sunday gravy.

'Set One' offers a clicky dark electro vibe that sounds like toxic sludge seeping into Drexiya's underwater kingdom ('Set Two' is yet more bracing). Force And Form, meanwhile, saw Surgeon moving towards more abstract and progressive territory, epic pieces such as 'Remnants Of What Once Was' fusing tectonic boom and submerged loops hidden in layers of static and hiss, while 'At The Heart Of It All' carries an epic atmosphere.

That these records stand up today is not surprising; this is music built for a particularly intense and unfettered physical response that doesn't rely on histrionics or expected structure. Throughout each compelling slab, Surgeon shows himself adept at taking disparate sounds and propelling them towards a transcendent whole, evoking the very action of living in all its thrilling physical apparatus, each tick, hiss and boom played out in imperial fashion. An audio master working the very strings of life.

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