Hard Techno suffers rather chronically from myopia. It’s difficult to find new ground and push boundaries while creating music that is confined to some fairly concrete and well-weathered foundational tropes.
Much of that ground has been trod before, and in many instances compromising with the basic elements of genre – the kick drum rhythm, the application of noise and mechanical field recordings – results in music that can’t really be characterized the same way anymore. There is a fundamental issue wherein innovating or abstracting upon the formula gets your record placed in the Experimental Noise section at the record store, and exiled from Tresor residents’ gig bags.
This is an especially relevant issue for me, because while I do like absurdly punishing Techno, I dislike formulaic music. It’s a hard line to walk, and because of the aforementioned catch-22 there is a certain amount of acceptance that has to happen. I have listened to enough Hard/Industrial Techno records to know that I’m not going to be particularly surprised by one. I’m not looking for brave new worlds of pounding, functional, four-to-the-floor esotericism – I’m looking for extremes of refinement within the existing, established context.
Ansome came onto the scene in much the same way his music comes onto a dancefloor – relentlessly. In no more than three years he has put forth something on the order of twelve official releases, spread across various labels dedicated to punishingly heavy dance music, including Mord, Mindcut, and Perc Trax. The latter of these labels is responsible for this latest release, his debut long-play.
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This record is not groundbreaking. It is not trying to change your preconceptions about what heavy dance music is supposed to be. If it is, it’s failing. The overdriven kicks, clattering industrial sounds, and wailing feedback are all things we’ve heard before – in fact this record displays a more diminutive palette than plenty of artists working within this greater aesthetic. I swear I’ve heard more than a couple of these samples and sounds on previous EPs.
Having got that out of the way – this is a strong Techno album from start to finish. The intro is the same vaguely disturbing pseudo-ambient noise piece that you’ve heard a million times before from artists like this, but it’s of the highest caliber. The sound design is exceptional. From there the record dives straight into the driving dancefloor material that Ansome has been cutting his teeth on for a while now. Blackwater stomps all the way through, and it’s easy to lose interest before the sparse musical content starts to enter near the end of the track.
Tracks like Snake Eyes and Grave Digger Figure keep the fury going and use a similar formula, but are a bit more nuanced and layered. My favourite tune on the record, The Pain Train, even features a rare moment of melodic ambience, floating above the familiar industrial wails and screeches that litter the album.
If you enjoy Hard Techno, you’re probably going to like this record. Its top quality stuff, the various flavours of distorted kickdrum alone are well worth a listen. Dancefloor destruction from end to end. You’re pretty much getting exactly what you’ve got on every Ansome EP up to this point, just in more quantity. This album is not an artistic statement, it is not a break from form, and it is not particularly exciting. But it is really gnarly, and that’s worthwhile. Bring on the sweat.