Even in the middle of summer, the ear sometimes craves techno of a darker kind – sounds that bring to mind pitch-black warehouses and dystopian landscapes. Conditions of Experience, the debut album from Swedish producer Lakej, released on Glasgow-based imprint Edit Select delivers just that with cuts of hard-edged techno targeted for the dancefloor.
The prevailing sound of the album is of hypnotic, deep techno. Cavernous kicks form a rhythmic backbone over which Lakej layers terse synths, aggressively distorted drones and ominous strings as harmonic accompaniment. Additional percussion is used sparingly to increase the impact of certain passages while melodicism is avoided, instead focusing on creating atmospheric soundscapes of a clinical, dark nature. This is carried over to the titles of the tracks, all of which refer to various scientific terminology, creating the overall impression of mysterious experiments gone wrong in a secret laboratory.
The sound of the album is strongly showcased from the start with Thermal Cycles, with hammering kicks and panning synths that sound like laughter echoing from the rumbling murk that is the low-end. From here, the album continues in a similar vein, remaining consistently mid-paced with a similarly oppressive atmosphere. Another highlight in that vein is Arbitrary Function, with its prominent, haunting synths and masterfully executed breakdown, which also shows how small variations in percussion can have a disproportionately strong effect on the impact of a track.
Enough variation on the formula is present on the album to keep things interesting. Dispersion and Causality brings a minimal, Detroit-influenced spin to the sound, with hypnotizing synths reminiscent of Terrence Dixon, while Nematic ramps up the tension through syncopation on the kicks, a small twist that creates a more calculating monster from similar base components. The two ambient interludes, Invariants and Phase Transition, take a beatless approach to the sonic palette of the album, providing a respite from the intensity while maintaining the overall atmosphere.
Conditions of Experience is an impressively strong debut from a relative newcomer to the techno scene, where Lakej displays a distinct and refined style of deep techno. Digital copies along with a limited edition vinyl sampler are available now from Edit Select (Bandcamp).