Yves De Mey, Counting Triggers

[Sandwell District]


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The last year or so has been a pretty odd one for Sandwell District. Already fast becoming one of most hyped labels in techno, Feed-Forward‘s excellent take on modern techno really sealed the deal for those a bit late to the party. However, it was at least the album’s delayed release and subsequent scarcity late last year that blew the hype into the stratosphere — something the Sandwell District collective didn’t see coming and seeked to rectify by releasing a long procession of versions of the album across multiple formats. Perhaps it’s just because I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the LP before they so quickly disappeared, but none of these releases struck me as particularly essential. Even less exciting were the rather boring 12″ from unknown Rrose and his album versioning Buchla experiments by Bob Ostertag (which was not quite as boring, but still lacking).

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Enter Yves De Mey, a sound designer whose only real previous connection to techno was through the Sendai project with Peter Van Hoesen. His Counting Triggers album, the label’s third long-player, continues Sandwell District’s trajectory into the abstract but brings the quality right back up the level of Feed-Forward. I don’t think you’ll find many DJs reaching for Counting Triggers in the club, which is just as well because the music etched into its groove is most certainly dance music, just not necessarily club music. At the heart of the album lies an incredible array of sounds wrestled out of Doepfer systems, which is a big reason why Counting Triggers is such an engrossing listen. New, unexpected sounds peak their heads out from every corner, filling out the frequency spectrum while making sure to avoid a cramped density.

All this makes Counting Triggers sound like a very academic listen, and while that’s certainly one way to approach it, it masks the rhythmic and emotive qualities that listeners coming back. This is Autechre had they grabbed a bunch of patch cables rather than gone down the Max route: rhythms intermingle in steadily shifting waves, and melodies briefly come into focus almost by accident. The dynamic range present is something sadly missing from most club music, as it’s from the gradual changing of the myriad elements in time, rather than simply their loudness, that gives rise to emotions from anxiety and dread to relief and contentment. Every now and then an almost organic sound (sometimes there are traces of what sound like guitars) cuts through the electronics and static, grounding us in much the way the rare 4/4 kick does — that grounding can be necessary.

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The temptation here can be to make comparisons with the likes of Raster-Noton and Mille Plateaux, and while those are decent reference points, Yves De Mey’s work is just a whole lot more recognizable as dance music. Instead of going as far into the abstract as possible, these tracks pull from the world of experimentation and establish bonds with the more practical side of things — resonating in ways that more heady fare can sometimes neglect. A physical force in terms of skeletal vibrations as well as the sounds themselves, Counting Triggers is a deeply compelling body of work. And while here on Earth it may still takes a couple of listens to wrap your head around it, I’m sure on another planet (or in another dimension) this stuff really jacks.

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