Anstam are apparently a pair of brothers from Germany who seem to value anonymity and quality control, infrequently releasing the austere records bearing their name. “Aeto” and “Brom,” their first two 12″s, are notable for industrial atmospheres featuring beats familiar to fans of Warp, Skam, Rephlex, etc. However, Anstam’s music isn’t wholly encompassed by a 90s sound, as they’ve been likened to contemporaries like Distance and Vex’d. The similarities are cosmetic though, as the records aren’t specifically operating within the constraints of dance-oriented music. Nonetheless, they do tap into nostalgia of bygone electronica and encourage sound system brutality. These approaches run their course in what might be called an England story (though not necessarily of that Soul Jazz compilation), and with the dubstep iteration of the hardcore continuum exploring a certain sparseness, it seems only natural that someone would reintegrate the spirit of earlier UK electronic music within this new context.
By no means is it Star Trek, but “Cree” rings of futuristic music from just outside our doorways. This is in spite of its sound palette belonging to a decidedly older era of electronic music. Anstam is, in short, a new kind of old, though the exercise in cataloging and referencing past music is really only half the story. Rather, the indirectness of its approach of sampling, not so much of sounds themselves, but the cognitions and responses we attribute to these sounds is what defines the energy here. Anstam works with hallmarks of industrial, but its context may very well be in the dancehall tradition. The potential of Anstam’s music lies in its promise of connecting synapses between genres; it follows the tradition of reciprocity between rock and dance music. Decades ago, European electronic dance music drew inspiration from bands like Front 242 and Cabaret Voltaire; and New Order and Psychic TV dabbled in acid house. The energy was palpable. Today, there is DFA, but what else? In dubstep there are MCs, and if Anstam were to enlist one, perhaps there could be no finer candidate than Blixa Bargeld and his electric drill. For an outsider to teach us to meditate on bass weight would be both unexpected and new. I welcome the edginess in Anstam that is lacking in a lot of dance music today.