The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Martyn Hare
Swollen Sounds Harry Sword , April 17th, 2015 11:27

Martyn Hare spent much of the early 00s making grinding acidic techno for labels like Cluster and his own Emetic imprint. The music he put out was generally raw is it came, unpinned with a rollicking dose of sub bass and a punkish devil may care abandon that personified the British techno scene at the time. Indeed, those were funny years for the harder styles; glassy minimal beats were ruling both clubs and column inches, the steelier mechanisations of Berlin and the Ostgut revolution were a few years off and - in London at least - harder techno was often associated with an increasingly sleazy squat scene. Bigger nights like Atomic Jam were still packing them out in the Midlands with international heavy hitters but, by and large, it was a relatively tricky time to be making tough beats.

This was the landscape that Martyn Hare inhabited for many years, then - a relatively small scene run by a family of like minded obsessives producing banging tools for small clubs. As such, producers such as Hare just got on with it, largely undisturbed by hype or outside influence; the network of British and European underground techno parties carried on pounding through minimal and dubstep until attention surrounding Berlin brought the focus back to solid, often brutal, functionality in techno. While previously you would have been far more likely to see the likes of Surgeon or Regis playing a wet Saturday night in Hull or checked James Ruskin in some sweatbox in Barcelona, the attention made it far easier for artists who wanted to play with ferocity. The past few years have seen, particularly in Britain, a yet grottier take on 4/4 with Perc, AnD, Blawan et al leading the charge for techno perfectly suited for grey mornings at Corsica Studios. And, to be honest, this whole record sounds well appointed for similar purposes.

You see, Hare is something of a maximalist when it comes to sound design, to say the least. The record is called Swollen Sounds for a reason, and listeners familiar with Hare from his track 'The New Normal' - perhaps the hardest track on last year's superlative Perc Trax compilation Slowly Exploding - will be pleased to hear that he has offered eight suitably bruising deliberations on the theme of maximal cranium destruction.

'The Long Dash' jitters and twitches with slab bass and metallic snares keeping time like so many actual slaps. 'Chubby Pants' is drenched in distortion and noise (to be fair, the entire album is drenched in distortion and noise) but benefits from off kilter acid squalls entirely befitting of a man who once released records on London acid techno institution Stay Up Forever.

There is a pleasingly deranged feel to most of these tracks; this is brutally effective rave music first and foremost, and by no means a po-faced exercise in techno purism. Straight stomping 4/4s are actually relatively thin on the ground, with Hare tending to favour a more lopsided broken approach. 'Presidente Camero' for example, leads on a swung mechanised two step beat that recalls Dom and Roland or Optical circa 1998 before leading forth with a volley of chest plate bass and white noise. It really is bracingly intense gear. The anthemic 'I Am Everything' meanwhile, sees Hare coating the mix with a fug of buzz and almost imperceptible whistle tones while unashamedly courting a drop that Skrillex himself would be proud of.

Not all is exhilarating however. 'Forever Empty' aims for obtuse pitch black dramatics, but ends up sounding rather clumsy and dunderheaded, with a beery reece baseline that would not have sounded out of place on a Finger Lickin' Records B-side circa 2002, while 'Hardcore Kicks' suffers from a similarly overblown vibe. They are the only bum notes, however; here Martyn Hare has produced a grotty and unhinged record of relatively rare intensity.