The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Low Jack
Sewing Machine Albert Freeman , May 20th, 2015 11:13

The rapid resurgence and expansion of the Paris dance scene has brought with it it's share of names, but it has also brought a loss of consistency as formerly-underground parties have turned their sights more towards size than towards quality. There have been some breakout names, notably Concrete's label and events, the Weather Festival, and now Antigone's appearance on Token, as well as projects who are slowly attaining greater recognition – Polar Inertia, Voiski, Zadig, etc. – but much of the best quality music remains resolutely underground, a fact nowhere better demonstrated than by In Paradisum and their concise, bracing cache of consistently high quality and challenging artists – Mondkopf, Amédée De Murcia's Roger West and Somaticae projects, and a very short list of others – who have since 2012 been releasing some of the city's most interesting music.

One of their most notable regulars is Low Jack, a producer who made his debut in 2012 on Paris' Get the Curse Music and has since gone on to find support from L.I.E.S. (an album in 2014), Delsin, The Trilogy Tapes, and his own Editions Gravats. Even the most cursory listen to any of his material makes little mystery of why he remains peripheral, albeit with strong allies. His is some of the nastiest music yet to emerge from the new wave of French producers: a slowed down version of analogue techno, at times gruesomely distorted and saturated with noise to the point of being nearly unrecognisable. In Paradisum, L.I.E.S., and TTT have made a name for themselves by innovating along these lines, but Low Jack's music is extreme even by their standards, a bold collision of industrial, noise, and primitive drum beatdown that finds parallels in the work of occasional collaborator and noise freak Vereker but has few other obvious touchstones in contemporary dance music.

Like his last long-playing effort, Sewing Machine is eight tracks of unremitting violence and sleaze intended solely to shred speakers and eardrums and to be played at maximum, obnoxious volume. Even given the drift of contemporary dance music towards industrialisms there's little out there as intense as this sort of take-no-prisoners bastard noise techno, and the producer shows little interest in making things palatable for those not ready for the ideas. Announcing itself with a layered blast of feedback processed through delay, Low Jack doesn't waste any time getting to the point. 'Fubu Night' is even more aggressive, the drum machine brutally crushed and distorted and only short, repeating amelodic synthesiser sequences and droning, pulsating bass giving any contrast from the overwhelming grim outlook. A title like 'Pocket Pussy' in this context is obvious baiting, and it spends nearly half of its length trawling the gutter in bracing arcs of pure noise before a spasmodic bass pulse enters to add more trash value to the nearly-uncontrolled screeching. As close as this approaches pure power electronics, there's also obvious craft here, with rapidly panning hiss and other details showing that it is in fact more structured and carefully wrought than pure noise artists would attempt.

While the incessant, martial pounding of the kicks occasionally can get wearisome, tracks like 'Body Control', while very much in character, show that Low Jack is also capable of more rhythmic adroitness even as the grimy backing sounds stay mostly along the same lines. His productions are often sparse, but the closing pair 'Sweatpants Chick' and 'Fruit' – also the nadir of density and brutality on the album – find Low Jack stacking up layers into maddening intensity with even sterner results. With all the extremism on display here, there's still a clear sense of structure to both the individual tracks and to the album, and when it finally crunches to a halt the ending is appropriately harrowing and also expertly played.

Music of this character is clearly not intended for mass consumption, but Low Jack obviously isn't going for accessibility and is treading upon ground few would dare explore. Even at its most extreme – early SPK comes to mind, or Throbbing Gristle's most destructive phases – industrial and EBM have little that can compare to this in paint-peeling, face-melting impact. It makes most of the new wave of noise-techno crossover seem tame in comparison, perhaps with the exception of Pete Swanson, though Swanson has yet to make a techno record as convincing or as well-produced as this. Low Jack has in fact found a balance here, and if Sewing Machine falls short of being definitive, it leaves few questions unanswered. The last few years have found France finally coming back to the fore for new, innovative electronic music, and here Low Jack and In Paradisum maintain the trend and deliver some of their fiercest sounds yet.