The process of propulsive reductionism: the mastery of eking out compelling dance music from scarcity — this is Hessle Audio’s forte. The best of their back catalog is unified by willingness to torch fat. And, as is befitting for a label that put so much stock in a lack of fuss, they also have a knack for finding idiosyncratic artists and releasing their music with no fanfare whatsoever. Producers such as Joe and Elgato retain mystery, a little romance perhaps — the music arrives, that’s it. No press release, no photo. Here the imprint continues apace with Bandshell, an unknown artist making his production debut with a tight EP that balances bleak techno flavors with classic Hessle fare.
First track, “Dust March,” is the curveball here — a bleak and foreboding piece of sludge techno that calls to mind Andy Stott’s material on Modern Love last year. A couple of kicks and what sounds like an ancient wind chime forlornly twinkling in a desert night provide the only percussive markers. A little reverb on a fuzzy pad, and that’s it — a compelling and spooky piece. “Rise ‘Em” goes in harder and hits classic Hessle buttons. 2-step break, some heavy woodblock, tribal whoops, and a couple of monstrous brown notes ensure that this will please anyone pining for “that” sound — this could have very comfortably fit on a Ramadanman 12″ circa 2009. The first hint of melody is reserved for “Metzger,” combing distorted subs, an innocent four-note synth lead, and a great collection of bleak pads. “Dog Sweater” meanwhile, is prime time beef — pummeling subs, ticking hats and an apocalyptic vibe — Kode9 playing Fabric Room 1, essentially. Bandshell has put together a compellingly assured set here, and, while this may not be quite as idiosyncratic as the last few Hessle releases, it’s a succinct and satisfying trip.