Cocoon Crush

TJ Hertz dazzles with meticulously constructed second long player

It’s well known by those who closely follow his output that TJ Hertz, the DJ and producer better known as Objekt, is a meticulous worker, in the studio and in the DJ booth. A 2016 interview with Resident Advisor saw him go deep on his carefully organised Rekordbox playlists with which he sidesteps tempo boundaries to seamlessly blend an array of club music, while in a recent RBMA lecture, he described his creative process as “methodical to the point of being dogmatic” – a view that’s backed up by his propensity for making more than 80 versions of a track at the production stage.

This approach to his craft can be heard across Hertz’s second album Cocoon Crush, which comes four years on from debut Flatland. What’s most striking about this new record though – and certainly more so than with its predecessor – is how such an approach doesn’t come at the expense of human emotion, as could so easily be the case. Sure, you could marvel for days at the sound design on the ASMR-esque ‘Rest Yr Troubles Over Me’ (with its ominous tolling bells, tinnitus tones, creeping footsteps and more) or the jittery off-grid percussion bursts of ‘Dazzle Anew’, and believe me I have. But at the heart of Cocoon Crush is a zest for rich melodies as Hertz takes a slight left-turn from the more synthetic traits of Flatland.

On ‘Secret Snake’, a few introductory minutes of propulsive, dancehall-leaning rhythms and android grumbles give way to a wave of dazzling, day-glo synths that recall Replica-era Oneohtrix Point Never. ‘Lost And Found’ bookends the record in two alternate takes, offering a ‘Lost Mix’ and a more extended, redemptive ‘Found Mix’ which closes the record on a jolt of jaw-dropping, expansive synths and strings. The former opens the album, coming to life via a docile progression of chords that sound part-synthetic and part-live instrumentation. Birdsong and the sounds of distant running water soon join proceedings and we’re plunged into Hertz’s sound world. You’d be forgiven for hearing traces of The X-Files theme in the playfully whistled melodies that later bounce around the lead riff.

Elsewhere, ’Deadlock’, with its angular, downtempo drums and creeping bassline, calls to mind the illbient of Mick Harris’ output as Scorn and The Weakener as Hertz explores lower tempos. ’35’, another cut which sits close to the 100BPM mark, brings together snappy drums, gurgling bass and the unintelligible android vocals that tie together much of the record, producing perhaps one of the most dancefloor-friendly moments on an album that doesn’t especially concern itself with meeting such conventions. Another of those moments can be found on ‘Runaway’ which cruises along at a peak-time club-friendly pace. Here though, Hertz still avoids playing by the book, soon removing the drums, leaving behind a bed of plaintive piano notes and submerged recordings of children at play before the 4×4 beat grid rolls back into life, this time with far more momentum.

Cocoon Crush also sees Hertz make some nods to his past. ‘Silica’, with its ruptured percussion, takes its glitchy fits of slap bass from 2014 track ‘Ganzfeld’, while ‘Nervous Silk’ serves as a kind of ambient counterpart to last year’s ‘Needle & Thread, cribbing its gleaming lead melody from that track’s breakdown. All this is to say that although Cocoon Crush finds Hertz pushing in a more organic, expressive direction than on Flatland, it’s a record that is still stamped with his distinctive quirks – thanks no doubt to his studious self-editing – as he continues to chart a path as one of current electronic music’s most consistent producers.

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