Belgian techno has always had some of the hardest edges and the bluntest impacts. The entire school of hoover stab-laden techno bangers started with Joey Beltram’s iconic “Mentasm”, while Speedy J’s sprays of noise and schranz thumps are nothing to mess with. So it’s no surprise that Marco Bailey, a veteran DJ of this scene, along with studio partner Tom Hades, eschew subtlety on their latest, E=MB2. Indeed, there are bass lines reminiscent of Beltram’s “Energy Flash” all over the album, from the obvious on “Rhythm Is My Life” to “Blast” and “Mad Max”.
The equation works out best when Bailey and Hades find a happy medium between the fierce repetition that this music demands and injecting it with something to keep a casual listener interested. There’s no question that any of the cuts here would sound killer on a dance floor, but an album should be justified by some kind of solitary, song-by-song listenability. On the title track, cascading synth trills and a well-played saxophone shake it gracefully with the uplifting hardcore pad line. Meanwhile, “Whistle” looks to housey keyboard stabs for a cerebral refuge, and “Brightness” approach synth pop territory in instrumental emotion. Other tracks fall flat when listened to outside of a sweaty dancing environment, and the attempts at downtempo on “Café Latté” and “Final Arrival” are staid misfires, but by-and-large, E=MB2 is an engaging listen for those who like some vision with their ‘ardkore.