Various Artists, Feral Grind



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The interplay between piercing light and murky, half-glimpsed shadow has been one of the audio hallmarks of Perc’s productions for the past few years. Even the starkest back-room workout (“Start Chopping” or “Cash 4 Gold” for example) has been tempered with a grace in the arrangement, one of an often stark human vulnerability. Equally, while the recent crop of industrially accented techno has shone a flickering cellar light onto some of the best pure body music of recent memory (AnD, Truss, Karenn), the flipside has been arguably even more fertile with a whole wave of producers (Bleaching Agent, Powell, Prostitutes, Pete Swanson) gaining audible inspiration from a questing and no-holds-barred approach to sound design that moves away from the peak-time dance floor — finding inspiration in the weirder corners of industrial and post-punk.

On the second release for his new label Submit, Perc (alongside music journalist Justin Farrar) curates some of the bloodiest and most mind-wrenching music to come from the new left-hand path. Housefire open with “Electric Bathwater / Beachboyswhenyoudie” an unsettling piece that uses a found-sound collage of flowing water alongside crackling electric cable and submerged, barely audible synth to create an atmosphere of creaking foreboding, the gentle oscillations of the trickling water offset by whip crack electric static. It’s a powerful statement of intent for the music on Feral Grind. The peaceful sound of the sea — that hoary old trope of a thousand “relaxation tapes” — layered alongside vicious malfunctioning electrics, natural world as both beauty and lethal threat.

Various Artists, excerpts from Feral Grind

Prostitutes’ “Braces On My Fangs” plays like an acid-burnt take on Italo disco slowed down to a sludgy crawl and put up against incessant military drum tattoo. A brassy synth riff is processed, rearranged, and covered in hiss until it loses all sense of functional shape, ending up a sad and dejected lope through some early-80s Reeperbahn canal side alley, the scent of currywurst, bad perfume, and cheap cigarettes cutting the morning fog. Bleaching Agent explore clanking industrial textures on “Yellow Corduroy Wall” — a nightmarish selection of metal on metal and twisting dials that evokes subconscious memories of some hidden Italian Giallo soundtrack; by the end you’re waiting for the piercing scream that never comes. Pete Swanson puts in a severe, beat-driven piece in the form of “Pleasure Averse,” bristling hats and spanking snares offset by his shifting, coarse palette of distortion and melodic synthesizer noise.

Elsewhere Henry & Hazel Slaughter offer a bloody slab of discombobulated murder dub with “Breather Fat: Take Four.” Hideously distorted bass and sharp hats move alongside squalling feedback and noise modulation of many and various piercing frequencies resulting in a tough but exhilarating listen. The David Russell Snake brings a cacophonous, lo-fi drum machine workout that looks set to burn out fast until being driven to a completely unexpected new tempo pitch at around the two-minute mark. Profligate, meanwhile, serves the most functionally “techno” moment in the form of “Swarm” — a sharp and brutally effective sound-system cut that combines meaty subs, reverberating snares and an incessant hornet hum. Indignant Senility close proceedings with “Lowest Temptation,” a track that somehow recalls the sinister analog reverberations of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, all bristling reverb and alien sound effects — the sound of battered little boxes singing. Indeed, it is this exact spirit of exploratory sound design that is writ large over this collection. Feral Grind is a thrilling document of a new wave of free-form producers seemingly unburdened by the shackles of functionality. It’s electronic music alive, red lined, savage, and sexy.

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