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Break It Down: Rian Treanor's File Under UK Metaplasm
Hannah Pezzack , October 1st, 2020 07:40

With his second full-length album, File Under UK Metaplasm, Rian Treanor continues to claw at the edges of club culture with exhilarating results, finds Hannah Pezzack

During lockdown in the Netherlands, with nothing much else to do, I ritually tuned into the art organisation and publishing house Urbanomic’s weekly PlaguePod. Featuring some of the most eminent political and musicological thinkers, including Amy Ireland, Enrico Monacelli and Reza Neganestani, the podcast is a baffling, often five-hour-long trek into Deleuzian theory and severed Skype connections. PlaguePod’s host, the philosopher (as well as Urbanomic’s founder and director) Robin Mackay, plays a mixture of obscure techno and French pop, as well as a must-listen dubplate of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ and ‘Bela Lugosi's Dead’ by Bauhaus. Somewhere in May, on Day 53 of the live show, the experimental glitch-pioneer Mark Fell made a guest appearance. I’ve long been enraptured by Fell’s pointillistic productions, especially his collaborations with DJ Sprinkles and Gábor Lázár. Calling from “deepest Rotherham,” in his soothing Yorkshire accent, Fell spoke proudly about his son’s success following his 2019 album ATAXIA.

Having previously been unaware of Rian Treanor’s music, ATAXIA quickly became the soundtrack for my self-isolation. Meaning “the loss of full control of bodily movements” (OED), the record is characterised by strange asymmetrical rhythms that resemble electronica prised apart on a dissection table. Treanor seems to be fascinated by the dancefloor as a place to push limits, subjecting his Boiler Room audience to impossibly fast bpms and CGI footage of his head melting. ATAXIA also features two bizarre pop remixes: M. Ashraf’s Lollywood banger ‘Good News For You’, and Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’. Then there was 2018’s single ‘RAVEDIT A1,’ a shattering rework of Whigfield’s 1995 number one hit ‘Saturday Night.’ As a child, Treanor remembers the track being played to an ecstatic living room during a house party. Both of his parents were devotees of Sheffield’s 80s bleep and techno scene, a backdrop that played a pivotal part in his musical development. By sixteen he had mastered the art of mixing and was already developing his own productions. But it wasn’t until 2015, at twenty-seven, that he made his official debut with A Rational Triangle. Uncannily reminiscent of Fell’s own Sensate Focus project, the EP is a fusion of retro-IDM and futuristic house, minimalist drum work and gleaming synth patches.

For his second full-length album File Under UK Metaplasm, Treanor takes a step back from remixing rave anthems and Fell-style sparsity, instead taking inspiration from an adolescent love affair with speed garage and footwork. Opener ‘Hypnic Jerks’ smashes together hi-def bass with machine-gun kicks. Built around fervent polymorphic rhythms, the track is both eerily hollow and impenetrable, like its insides have been scraped out and reshaped into an alien object. ‘Mirror Instant’ siphons off a jumbled melody, syncopated beats fracturing like shards of glass. The bursts of abrasive noise flash like a club strobe light, illuminating dancers in jerking, freeze-frame motions. Describing Treanor’s music in these allegories feels entirely apt given that he regards himself first and foremost as a visual artist, preferring to work primarily with Max/MSP. The programming language has a graphical interface, a feature that comes to life on ‘Opponent Process’, which is full of the audible trace of red pencil marks, as if he were correcting himself as he went along, leaving behind parts where the beat has been sawn off and tossed aside. It’s this playful workshopping that makes File Under UK Metaplasm so engrossing, as if complex machinery were being meticulously taken apart then reassembled.

‘Metaplasm’ refers to the manipulation of language, in particular, the addition, subtraction, or substitution of letters or sounds. Also known as effective misspelling, it seems to be a reference to the album’s warping of genre, taking, as Treanor describes, “those formulaic dance structures but just slightly mangled or messed up. I'm still focused on making functioning dance music for clubs, but I'm really interested in how far you push that before it's just like - no." There definitely are occasional moments where that point beyond is reached. ‘Metrogazer’ is hardcore at its most repetitive, delivering a blast of artillery. Dub leaning ‘Opponent Processes’ could have been taken deeper into warbling sub-bass, instead it falls apart completely, veering off into incomprehensible clattering. It is hard to imagine these tracks being played out to a crowd, but maybe in the current climate of contemplative radio shows and streaming, they will fare well.

File Under UK Metaplasm is a botched archive that puts dancehall funk through a blender on ‘Debouncing,’ or ruptures Sheffield's Warp-ed legacy with 'Vacuum Angle', a track which collapses IDM into icy static. Treanor has an ability to make discordant, white noise sound piercingly precise, but seemingly without any deliberate intent to alienate his listeners. Rather, as with the tap-tapping metronome rhythm of final track ‘Order From The Pausing’, it’s all about uncovering what makes us tick.