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A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day Ben Cardew , April 3rd, 2017 19:57

Observers pondering whatever happened to IDM in the mid to late 2010s may well find their answer in Russia. Or at least in Nina Kraviz, Russia’s foremost DJ and electronic music star, whose musical world has taken a step towards the appallingly named and yet surprisingly evergreen world of Intelligent Dance Music of late. Kraviz’ brilliant Fabric mix, released at the tail end of 2016, wove an intriguing path between techno, IDM, ambience and acid, while her трип label has proved a welcome home for IDM-influenced tracks from the likes of Bjarki and even Aphex Twin himself.

Continuing this theme are Russian duo PTU (aka Alina Izolenta and Kamil Ea) whose ‘A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day’ was one of the unreleased highlights on Kraviz' Fabric mix and now forms the centrepiece of this seven-track EP. In the Fabric mix songs came thick and fast, with the 2 minutes 46 of ‘A Broken Clock…’ suggesting a group that allied a fondness for found sound with the comforting thump of a kick drum in a way that recalled the inventive danceability of early IDM. It was music that drank from the experimental electronic spring of peak Warp Records but which could, at a push, just about fit into a techno set without scaring the horses. (Although, given the almighty online stink when Kraviz veered from the well-worn path of techno oomph at a gig in Melbourne last November, maybe we shouldn't be so sure.)

Their debut EP, however, reveals PTU’s output to be far more wide-ranging than that, skirting over a number of different styles that hang together thanks to a fondness for aural oddity, the beauty of a well-picked sound and an ear for fuss-free minimalism and space. At times the EP sounds like the duo’s attempt to pay homage to the many and varied sounds of IDM, with opener ‘Intact Alef’ resembling the ordered randomness of Autechre, while ‘Yes’ is a take off of Aphex Twin’s breakbeats and acid experiments. But A Broken Clock… is never justa homage. Rather, it shows PTU to have the rare skill of being able to shape often rather random sounds - a bell ringing, a ravey hoover, a detuned synth - into a mix that is both relatively sparse and always engaging. The masterpiece in this is the EP’s title track, four endlessly captivating minutes of sound collage, which resembles all the best weird little moments of other techno records stitched together under a thumping kick drum.

‘Lizard’ – a monumentally frenetic and relatively dense slice of Drexciyan electro aside – PTU stick to their minimalist modus operandi over the seven tracks here: there are few melodies, barring some simple synth lines on ‘Intact Alef’ and the rhythms, with the notable exception of ‘Yes’, don’t do much more than mark time. It is simple, uncluttered music, made on two 8-track samplers, but everything sounds fantastic, an alchemic mixture of the right sounds in the right places. It is a spine-tingling pleasure to hear, for example, how the sound of a growling bear (possibly) on ‘Between Us’ floats around the mix, echoing front to back and left to right, intercut with a fragmented female vocal and other echoing animal noises; or the way a pinging acid blip bounces around the mix on ‘Armlet’ like a rubber ball in a Berlin basement.

This last track sums up precisely why PTU are so exciting. Yes, their music bears the mark of their IDM predecessors. But over ‘Armlet’’s two minutes 40 the duo pack in more ideas, more wonderful sounds and more frenetically beautiful moments than most other electronic acts manage in an entire double album. Far from the stasis of a broken clock, in fact, PTU’s music suggests the giddy, ever-changing whirl of a kaleidoscope or the disorienting pleasure of a drunken ride on a Waltzer, minus the headaches and drunken shouting. A Broken Clock… doesn’t just engage, then. It resonates.