, April 18th, 2016 08:24
Imagine the club of Michael Winner's most fevered imaginings. It would be populated by 'street-punks' and grinning hoodlums straight out of Death Wish 3; the interior would be shiny and metallic; outside, hard rain, steam rising theatrically from the grills, flaming trash cans, homeless prophet pushing a shopping trolley and bellowing salutations to the black sky; cages would be suspended from the ceiling above the dance-floor and there would be a booth in the middle where wild eyed loons might play Russian roulette and down shots of cheap whiskey poured by a toothless, whooping, bartender. The soundtrack? Well, this would work. Because in Stowaway Ansome has put together a techno record that actually sounds gloriously like techno as 'concerned of Tunbridge Wells' might imagine it to sound. Which is a very good thing, of course.
Releasing a series of grubby bangers on his own South London Analogue Material, Bas Mooy's Mord imprint and Perc Trax over the past few years which have generally worked industrially inflected tropes - sheet noise distortion, booming kicks and aggressively rendered sound design - with a deft and able touch, Ansome has allowed weirdly intricate details equal footing with the gale force thwackage. On Stowaway, he continues apace, gleefully forging wall after wall of complex and punishing audio. The tracks here - seriously effective trotter gear, the lot of them - hit that sweet spot between buzzing insistency, borderline grotesque sonic overdrive and a strangely elegant sense of theatre. This is not music of hypnotic subtlety; rather, its calloused and punch drunk, rendered with the midnight eye of the obsessive craftsman.
'Blackwater' hinges on a staggered kick pattern, a dose of sub pressure and echoing white noise snippets reverberating all around like clattering rusted hooks and netting knocking around a 1970's ghost trawler drifting off Newlyn. 'Poldark' is stern stuff, making use of kicks that sound (even on headphones) as if they're coming from just outside the main room - that strange sensation you get in the corridor of loosely vibrating radiators joining the sub laden cacophony - submerged ticks and layer on layer of beautifully rendered machinist noises that hiss, clang and clatter before being broken by assertive stabs.
Elsewhere, 'The Pain Train' is aptly named, rollicking along like a drunken 17th century blacksmith knocking out tankards quick sharp for the Feast of Fools, all hydraulic beef and swagger. 'Back Alley Sally' is three scant minutes of terrifying rave noise, Mentasm hoover stabs and thwacking kicks that never quite unroll. A breather? None. Most compelling in sheer velocity and ticking aggressive tension, however, is 'Snake Eyes' - all ferocious gnash, echo lab subs and a hat pattern as beautifully placed as if Andy Weatherall were to be cast as a blind scribe in Game Of Thrones.
But while much of the music on Stowaway is well suited to the sweatboxes and basement clubs of this world, there is also a mildly regal air here; a pleasing sense of pomp - stadium sized volume dynamics - that places it firmly in the sphere of the very biggest of rooms, exact audio body science; this snare, placed exactly here, will illicit this exact reaction. All highly satisfying. Does it work beautifully as an immersive full session 'album' listen, in the sense of label boss Perc's two masterful LPs? Not quite - it lacks the pacing and the strangeness - but one feels that is not quite the point here. This is about unrelenting, absurdly loud techno, rendered with a keenness to detail, all melty furnace heat. Dive in, blackened tongs asunder - commence thunder!