Terrence Dixon, Giant Robot

[Monique Musique]

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Darren Cunningham has long acknowledged Detroit minimalist Terrence Dixon as an influence on his work as Actress, but it has taken years for the two to actually appear on a record together (excluding a Rush Hour sampler featuring a pair of their remixes, for different artists). Giant Robot, then, is chiefly notable for its Actress remix, but its originals are even more impressive, furthering the case that Dixon is in the midst of a serious career resurgence. That remix is of “Self Portrait.” The original is the EP’s most abstract and minimal piece, largely reduced to jagged digital arpeggios and dreamlike slurred vocals. Cunningham finds a wealth of elements lurking beneath its surface and adds some of his own to boot, as his take is considerably busier. His remix is a heavily squashed, swirling mulch, and its pads murmur below clouds of compressed noise and a rattling clutter of a rhythm. Its confusing, muddily sinister vortex is a near-complete transformation, and the polar opposite of the original.

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Dixon’s other tracks are composed with his signature spatial awareness — elements are expertly layered so as to create a kind of room, and much of their movement is established in their opening seconds. The title track combines an irregular bass line and sputtering layers of snares, claps, and doubletime hi-hats. Its modulation is almost imperceptible until the entry of high-pitched chords which seem to knock it off its axis. “Tales From The Westside” works with a similar atonality, as its discombobulated lead converges with streaky synth lines and tweaked strings; its percussion is mostly gestural, kept low in the mix. Best of all is “The Guilty Bridge,” on which missile-like laser echoes and rave organ instantly convey a militaristic urgency of the sort he explored on tracks like “War Zone” and “A Game Called War.” While their tense modulation remains the focal point, the brittle, tinkling sounds that creep around the side of the stereo field lend its brute force an oddly fragile point of contrast.

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