33 34


The final collaboration between Nik Void and the late Peter Rehberg will mess with you on a deep neurological level, finds Daryl Worthington

Listening to electronic music induces altered states of consciousness. That’s something clubbers and noise heads have long reported anecdotally. But now neuroscientists are reaching the same conclusion. A common explanation is entrainment, where brainwaves synchronize with external stimuli – say, a beat. A recently published study explores this relationship. After listening to one-minute excerpts of electronic music at varying tempos, participants performed cognitive tasks and completed questionnaires to track signs of altered consciousness. Connections emerged: differing tempos induced different effects on the brain.

NPVR, the duo of Nik Void and the late Peter Rehberg, make music precision engineered to toy with entrainment. They know electronic music built around repetitive structures is hypnotic. And that gives them something to mess with. On their second album, 33 34, off-kilter beats and synthesized shrapnel trip your brainwaves up and send them sideways.

Closing track ‘I/C/D/S’ opens with a pounding kick and side-chained synth. For the first time on the record the duo’s modular improvisations are leading them towards the dance floor. Tension rises. Layers of cave-dwelling percussion add new shapes to the groove. You can almost hear them debating where to go. The obvious options, perhaps, would be a drop, build, or fade out. But Void and Rehberg opt to yank the handbrake. The freight train pulse halts to a stab. The synthesizer gets aggressively smelted. What was bouncing flips into a doomy swagger in the space of a beat.

It’s the most blatant piece of sonic discombobulation on 33 34, but it’s not an isolated incident. ‘Invisible Man’s stumbling synth sequence repeats while never quite doing the same thing twice. Ploughing through charred percussion, its odd gait becomes entrancing (maybe even entraining). ‘Keep Former’ leaks spindly drum machines, sonar pulses and gloomy metallic shimmer. Listen closely and you’ll swear there are voices in the icy murk.

There’s sadly only two NPVR albums, this and 2017’s 33 33. They were recorded close together: the first in London in 2016, 33 34 six months later in Rehberg’s home in Vienna. The duo had agreed on tracks and mixes, but Rehberg’s death and Void’s struggle to come to terms with listening to this music in the wake of his passing delayed the release. It makes 33 34 a moving document of a once-blossoming collaboration. The pair’s sonics merging so seamlessly isn’t a surprise, there’s a lot of common ground in their discographies. But something else is audible. Two kindred spirits, dedicated to intensity and exploration. Open to where the other and their machines take them. Sharing a mischievous compulsion to mess with brainwaves.

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