Since its origins in Detroit, techno has always been composed of intensely regional scenes that coalesce into the ornate patchwork that makes up the global sound of the genre. The universal language provided by electronic instrumentation allows wide-flung producers to find common ground and influence each other, yet the one-of-a-kind musical histories of different geographical areas lead to unique influences coming through in their creative output. Beneath the Surface, the debut album of Delhi-based producer ARTIFVCT, released on Qilla Records, one of the premier techno labels of India, delivers ten tracks of mesmerizing techno that blends the sounds of deep techno with drones and rhythms inspired by the classical music of India.
The general mood of the album is quite downbeat, with most of the tracks being mid-tempo and percussive, with the melodic component provided by the aforementioned drones. The rhythms are syncopated and broken, keeping the progression of the tracks interesting, which is necessary to provide the horizontal movement needed for such amelodic music. While the sound is not particularly mechanical or cold, the album shies away from more traditional organic textures that recall forested wildernesses, instead bringing to mind something more grounded and primal, perhaps a fungal colony surviving in the ground of the harsh, gray mountains of the album art.
Beneath the Surface’s peak comes around its midpoint, starting with Metanoia, one of the faster tracks on the album. The boost in tempo breaks the trance created by the first three tracks and gets the mind as well as the feet moving again. This is followed by Bhram, the highlight of the album, which makes excellent use of percussion, breaking and recombining the four on the floor form into creative forms over the progression of the track. The only melodic development is through the interplay of harsh drones, creating something disorienting yet addictive with an unique sound that makes you want more. The follow-up, Hysteria, is the most overtly dance-floor friendly track on the album with a groove provided by its snappy percussion that is hard to refuse. Maybe the only negative criticism on the album is that it could be a little shorter. At 62 minutes over ten tracks of rhythmic, heavy techno with a dark, oppressive mood, only broken up by the dark ambient intro and percussionless outro, it can be a challenging listen in its entirety.
Beneath the Surface is out now on ARTIFVCT’s Bandcamp.