Old Apparatus, Derren

[Sullen Tone]

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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.

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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.

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