As far as bass music goes, one would be hard pressed to find a more […]
As far as bass music goes, one would be hard pressed to find a more accessible producer than Synkro (a.k.a. Joe McBride). The Manchester producer’s last solo release was called Acceptance and bore the implications of the title out in swooning, heartbroken melodies and the blush of nylon-string guitars and detailed, inventive drum programming. McBride has shown that he’s also capable of the steeliest techno vibes as one half of Akkord—his collaborative project with fellow Manchester resident Indigo (a.k.a. Liam Blackburn)—without giving up the core accessibility and inventiveness that define his approach. Techno—of the scrappy, metallic variety—is in vogue thanks to labels like L.I.E.S., but Akkord’s take is unique. Although the duo gets a lot of mileage out of fractured, jagged samples for its drum hits, the vibe here is more Consumed/Closer-era Plastikman than, say, Unit Moebius, with tracks patiently coalescing around towering rhythmic riffs. There are no real melodies to speak of, and yet Akkord is an especially articulate album, one that offers a series of wintry industrial scenes that fade into each other with growing urgency. If this is techno, it’s the genre at its least monolithic. At every turn, Akkord pushes against the grain of the 4/4 grid, laying heavy swing over the otherwise straightforward stomp of “3dOS” or flirting with 2562/Demdike Stare territory on the eerie fourth-world invocation “Smoke Circle.”
Indeed, Akkord falls much closer to Shackleton’s music—with its yawning subs and skin-crawling polyrhythms—than Blawan and Pariah’s more hardcore-minded throwbacks, but a single point of reference is hardly enough to encompass what Akkord is accomplishing. The affect here is undeniably techno; this is body music for cerebral paranoiacs, regardless of the genres it draws on to get there. The feeling of broken glass and construction dust abounds, conjuring the seismic convulsions and textural preoccupations of SHXCXCHCXSH’s STRGTHS album from earlier in the year, yet things never fall into a lock step. “Conveyor” is the most traditional thing on offer, but there’s far more going on below the waist than is usually the case with tracks centered around deep-frying a kick-drum sound until it bursts open at the seams. “Hex_ad” is a sonic orgy that skirts IDM territory; it’s neck-snapping bleep techno facing off with drum programming that’s detailed enough—yet much too coherent—to pass far one of Autechre’s logarithmic experiments. “Channel Drift” is an object lesson in what makes Akkord feel not merely of the present, but somewhat prophetic; despite its gun-cocking sounds and a snare that’s more like a trash-can lid, there’s a smoothness to the syncopation of the kick drums that underscores the sturdy coherence of the music, even as the sound design gets especially visceral. In comparison to Paul Woolford’s Special Request project, Akkord only allows its jungle influences to enter into the picture under deep cover, but they’re equally important to creating music that is both physically and conceptually overwhelming.