Planetary Assault Systems, Temporary Suspension

letherebelight

[Ostgut Ton]


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A few years back, you couldn’t go to a club without seeing a “Rave Strikes Back” sticker on a DJ’s record box. An initiative set up by Freude-am-Tanzen, the idea was to revolt against the ahistorical “mnml” of the time and bring back “rough, unpolished techno,” in the words of its creators. On the website, they invited a number of Germany’s pre-eminent DJs (Robert Johnson’s Ata, Michael Mayer, DJ Koze) to chart their favorite rave anthems. Superficially, the planned revival appeared to have little tangible effect, save the unconnected splutterings of a D.O.A. scene in the less salubrious parts of south-east London (thanks, Klaxons). But in the last eighteen months or so, harder techno seems to have come once more back in vogue. The Birmingham scene centered around British Murder Boys and Surgeon has returned with new vigor in the form of Sandwell District; Levon Vincent’s rough and ready style is the toast of DJs everywhere; and of course Marcel Dettmann and company have been keeping the muscle-marys at Berghain more than happy by spinning classic floor-shakers such as “Der Klang Der Familie” and “Model 8” at every opportunity.

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It’s perfect timing, then, for Luke Slater to return under his none-more-raving Planetary Assault Systems guise to release the fiercest techno record you’re likely to hear all year. The “Planetary Funk” series released on Peacefrog from 1993-1999 is some of the best stuff of that era or any other, and still sound thrillingly contemporary today. As Slater makes apparent in his forthcoming LWE interview, PAS tracks are aimed squarely at the dance floor, and all of the tracks on Temporary Suspension were extensively road-tested and battle-hardened before making the final cut. It shows, as every track, played at the right time (and at the right volume), will no doubt elicit the kind of responses early rave anthems must have received from spangled punters. Lead off track “Open Up” is relatively restrained, with a submerged kick drum and a murky fog of static, but from that point on there is hardly time to draw breath.

Mixed live by Slater, Temporary Suspension seems to speed by faster than a Japanese bullet train on first listen, but on closer inspection the subtleties and attention to detail of each track become apparent. To quote a description of an early Ostgut release, “noise is the rave signal” here, but there is also the clear craftmanship you would expect from such an experienced operator. “Hold It” is brutal, clipped funk born out of nothing more than a truncated acid squiggle, while “Whoodoo” batters “game over” bleeps into submission. “Enter Action” and “X Speaks To X” are the most explicitly “rave,” both punishingly hard without falling into the trap of hollow bombast.

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It’s a shame the sequencing of the album lets it down a little. Building sharply to album highlight “X Speaks To X” (a 21st century “Mentasm”?!), it then drops off towards the end. Title track and lead single “Temporary Suspension” is a powerful tension-builder in the right hands, but here it leads into the most subdued moment, the almost wistful “Gateway To Minia.” The tail doesn’t wag so much as lash out, however, with the closer “Sticker Man,” a harsh and industrial reminder that if rave does strike back, then Planetary Assault Systems will lead the offensive.

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