See the name Silent Servant, and more likely than not, your thoughts go immediately to Sandwell District. Assuming you’ve been following techno for the last decade, it’d be hard not to: though by no means the Los Angeles-based producer’s only project — Juan Mendez had a run of singles in the late 90s and early 2000s as Jasper, runs Historia y Violencia with Underground Resistance affiliate Santiago Salazar, DJs with great flair, and spends his days as a designer (he spearheaded Sandwell’s singular visual aesthetic) — it’s the one that’s made Silent Servant ubiquitous (as much as you’d call someone making uncompromising techno records “ubiquitous”).
Negative Fascination won’t end the Sandwell District associations entirely, but Karl O’Connor’s executive producer credit (whatever that means) notwithstanding, it’s unquestionably a statement of independence, both from Sandwell and from capital-T techno more generally. Recorded for legendary experimental label Hospital Productions, Silent Servant’s debut long-player would probably still find a home in the same bin as his last project, but Negative Fascination is less an embodiment of techno than an outgrowth of it — a sound and vibe all Mendez’s own.
Silent Servant puts throbbing beats carrying loopy, headspinning rhythms in the forefront here — tracks like “The Strange Attractor” and “Utopian Disaster (End)” would slot brilliantly in one of his nervy big-room sets — but its dance floor potential comes off as somewhat incidental: clocking in at under 40 minutes, the meticulously paced Negative Fascination is less a club-ready freakout than a agitated jolt of dark energy best experienced on a hefty pair of headphones. Song structures and a jangly bounce, both borrowed from post-punk, certainly put some distance between this full-length and Feed Forward. Birmingham might be the spiritual home of Sandwell District’s album, but in the easy pulse of “Invocation Of Lust” and drumkit vamping of “Temptation & Desire,” you’ll hear more than a little of 1980s Manchester creeping in. But even at its most punk-leaning, Negative Fascination cinematic strings and mechanical clink lend it a darkness more expansive and all-consuming than the ancient, gritty 7″s that inspired it could hope to contain. Silent Servant is undeniably confrontational here, but he gets in your face in high fidelity, leaving no question about who’s spitting the venom.