Travels between distant worlds and technological advancements for either good or evil have been a defining part of the mythos of techno since its afro-futurist origins in Detroit, whether in the form of The Unknown Writer’s tales of electronic warfare against the world government in UR liner notes or the underwater world so eloquently sketched out in the works of Drexciya. The high-concept structures buttressed the minimalist sound of early techno and electro to create a synthesis that elevated the music beyond its mere form, leaving blueprints for future productions to follow. Horizons, the latest album from Italian producer Alex Dolby under a new alias, AX15, takes inspiration from these legendary releases and melds it with the progressive sounds of 90s IDM, landing somewhere in-between Sheffield and Detroit.
The surrealist cover art prepares us for an sojourn into the uncanny, and the sonics of the opening two tracks carry out the promise, with True Spirit being a tensely coiled spring of energetic drive and potential, ready to launch a traveler into the infinite expanse, which we then explore during Nearly Fifty, a sunrise seen hanging in the void with only distant acid echoes to link one back to terrestrial ideas. Curiously, the closer, Horizons, takes a very similar approach to the introduction, again featuring similar bright melodies, distant vocal samples and broken percussion, thereby bookending the album with two thematically similar compositions.
Detroit techno and electro always drove itself forward with the friction created from the dissonance between the high-minded concepts creating the narratives for the music and the realities of life in decaying Motor City, and Horizons doesn’t forget that side of the genre. There are a number of tracks here that are more indebted to the urban warrior aesthetics, like Moments, with the belligerent drive of early Underground Resistance or Night Visions, which is a crawl through the underbelly of the darkest cyberpunk megacity. Model 28 explicitly brings to mind the manufacturing lines of the old Ford plants, where a deep, electrofunk bassline brings the long-abandoned machinery back to life, overlaid with hauntological snippets of corporate speak distributed through dormant loudspeakers. A personal highlight is Linear Dimension, which is the track most influenced by the sounds of IDM, with far more outré percussion, yet also containing some of the more striking melodies seen throughout the album.
Horizons is out now from MÉTIER’s Bandcamp