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A Fallen Empire Harry Sword , November 15th, 2013 11:31

The pairing of Samuel Kerridge and Downwards Records makes perfect, if that not obvious, sense. Because while his grandiose and opulent strand of power sludge techno is not the most immediate fit for a label that made its name releasing beats of a pounding, utilitarian bent, his tracks share the focus, lack of dilution and willingness to hone sound to absolute base point that make the Birmingham house of correction a grand shackle to bear.

Cracking tension, encroaching doom, unseen terror – Kerridge layers suffocating audio to the point of no escape, a trope that is hard to pull off convincingly. And, as easy as it is for music as pitch black as this to quickly descend into horror show farce, it's to his credit that this does not happen on A Fallen Empire. The sound remains compellingly driven and shaded throughout – in horror terms it's the difference between slow burning Carpenter-esque screw-twister tension and some brainless modern gore fest.

Indeed, though Kerridge is a producer with a slim discography, his sound has become instantly recognisable and an increasingly vital part of the techno landscape, the dirt-slow rumble placing near-impossible emphasis on low end frequency and churning dread atmosphere. The seven tracks here needle their way into the subconscious directly, making A Fallen Empire an immersive experience that places the record into a headspace akin to Melvins' Lysol or Earth 2 rather than anything from the classical techno canon – slow burning beats may be the carrier, but this feels graver and more portentous than mere dance music. In pure electronic music terms, the record can be compared more usefully to No U Turn's seminal 1997 compilation LP Torque, or the earliest Dom and Roland productions on Moving Shadow or any number of Loxy productions – tunes from D&B's unsung but highly fertile late 90s period that still sound almost unfathomably bleak in conception, and that don't shy away from huge cinematic reference.

'Chant' is an incredibly oppressive opening gambit, one that threatens to consume the listener into a gaping void with layer upon layer of feedback and hiss; drums that sound like a wild-eyed Bill Ward pounding a wildebeest to death in a wet cave. Second track 'Black Sun' opens with field recordings that sound like they were recorded inside said cave – dripping condensation and echo met by one of the filthiest Reese bass lines of the past decade or so – a monstrous, absurd and brilliant take on tectonic electronics. However, it's not just the music that is gloriously direct. Track titles throughout also point to a Spinal Tap-esque literal representation of the music. 'Heavy Metal'; 'Straight to Hell'; 'Black Sun'… none more black.

A Fallen Empire revels in sheer sonic excess, to a level of near ludicrous power and portent: Kerridge as debauched medieval king, sitting astride a mighty stack flinging rotten pies to hordes of hungry peasants below, and then chuckling to himself as they're knocked to the ground by his earth quaking subs before they can reach them. The album celebrates the chewy, fibrous physicality of sound. And while the palette Kerridge works with doesn't change much throughout – great walls of bass, evil Reese hum, war drum bongos, kicks the size of Ecuador - this is assuredly not about eclecticism, no more so than witnessing Regis lay waste to some steaming back room, or having all rational thought swept aside by a fully becloaked Sunn O))). No, this is music to move psychic mountains, a debut of highly confident aural destruction. And while comparisons to the murky Modern Love stable of the past few years are perhaps inevitable, Kerridge has unleashed something far more malevolent in intent, a King Joffrey to Andy Stott's Ned Stark. Headphones at the ready, for winter is coming.