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Scramblers Will Ainsley , May 8th, 2020 08:36

Container's fifth album, Scramblers delivers angry metallic metabolic music for angry metallic metabolic people, finds Will Ainsley

Like my Aunty Lily’s cat’s face, Scramblers by Container is squashed, cartilaginous, angry, and rather enchanting. Distortion, gain, and overdrive invigorate bare-bones arrangements of percussion and bass that are alloyed in yammering synergy.

Scramblers reminds me of the preface to a Philip Pullman short story called ‘Clockwork’, with its description of the physical components such as ‘tempered steel’, ‘sharp enough to draw blood’, and ‘iron weight’. Pullman describes the way mainsprings, gears, and pendulums are ‘led harmlessly through the clock to drive the hands’. Container's fifth album has that same edifice of unyielding units, tightly wound, joined to make something self-contained and mechanical.

The chewy peals of analogue bass and the crunchy, processed drum machines temper each other; they need one another. Scramblers would feel clinical and overwhelming if one element were given precedence. There are moments when you fear everything will fall apart into a messy squall but Container always brings it back, delivering eight slabs of grinding, Neubaten pummel. Clicking hi-hats, kicks like falling dumbbells, and synthesizer squeals all coagulate into a slinky flow. Like Neubaten, there’s a tight-knit groove, a girded chassis holding it all together like a ratchet.

Throbbing Gristle sometimes talked about the idea of ‘metabolic music’, what Genesis P-Orridge described as being for "the pores, the cells". Listening to ‘Scramblers’ is a physical, visceral experience. It sizzles and crackles with impish glee, spitting like Aunty Lily’s cat. The arrangements seem caked in grit and grime. Remember that Monty Python sketch where Rebecca Vermin-Jones recoils at ‘tinny’ words like ‘newspaper’ and ‘litterbin’, and ‘nasty PVC sort of words’ like ‘leap’? Scramblers is like those uncomfortable, wince-inducing words. It recalls physical materials rather than musical genres. The high frequencies in the bassline in ‘Duster’ sounds like insect stridulation, ‘Ventilator’ shakes with plastic-y squeaks, and the opening bass drone in ‘Mottle’ puts you in mind of an F1 car engine’s roar. A quivering geometric pattern scuds across ‘Scrambler’ before cutting out completely, as if it needs to be rewound. Indeed, most of the pieces grind to a halt without warning, they seem to run out of power. The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered in just one day which might explain some of why the album sounds rough-hewn and fitful.

An admirable and invigorating work, Scramblers casts its eyes to the future of machine music and does not flinch in its steely gaze.