Anyone who heard Old Apparatus’ self-titled debut for Deep Medi Musik knows how hard they came out swinging. Its searing, visceral, high-drama sound was completely different from the label’s dubstep-centric fare, heavily textured and infused with a raw, post-industrial menace. Its follow-up, Zebulon, was met with a lukewarm reception, and rightfully so — both tracks featured vocalists (an MC and a folk singer), and as such the production was pared back, only meagerly hinting at the strength of its predecessor. A subsequent remix of Shangaan Electro went for a lumbering, pitch-shifted approach, not far removed from the Tri Angle sound. Derren, their first EP for On Sullen Tone, follows that track’s trajectory.
The alternately brooding and ferocious grimness that marked their debut is evolving into a more melancholy, pop-inspired sound. This is evidenced on the title track, which moves in cute micro-steps that recall Mount Kimbie, marked with bits of jangling guitar and a mopey male vocal. On “Dealow” the duo find mileage in a calling card of witch house and Burial alike — reverb-drenched, pitched-down vocals — by placing them on broken drums and forlorn synthetic smoke. Like their debut, Derren seems in part composed as a suite, as much about bridging atmospheric movements as it is straight-up tracks. For example, the plaintive shuffle that opens “Bodah” soon dissolves into unstable ambience, while the streaky, cinematic strings that open “Zimmer” become twinkling ripples of timeworn piano. Derren itself is a bridge between Old Apparatus’ caustic industrial and moody pop sides, but their original mission statement still looms large over their work, and they have yet to match it.