[4 December 2005]
Since the very beginning of techno, artists have cultivated multiple aliases as a way of differentiating between multiple projects. As opposed to what would be in rock terms merely “side projects”, techno producers often draw definitional guidelines between dissimilar releases as a way of indicating significant thematic demarcations. Derrick May released records as Rhythm is Rhythm, Juan Atkins as Model 500 and Cybotron, among others. The most recent example can be found in the career of Richie Hawtin, who records and tours extensively as himself, but also utilizes the Plastikman alias for a certain type of material—usually more brooding and enigmatic than Hawtin’s own (relatively) straightforward material.
Audion is Matthew Dear, but not the Dear with whom you may be familiar. With his eponymous solo material, Dear has drawn a fine line between the delicate propulsion of Kompakt’s modern microhouse and, oddly enough, a more songwriting-oriented vocal approach reminiscent of Conor Oberst or Erlend Oye. Audion is Dear without any of the delicate sensibilities he brings to his other work. To put it bluntly, this is hard pounding music designed to accompany activities that are traditionally associated with hard pounding—i.e., sex.
Just take a look at these song titles: “Your Place or Mine”, “Titty Fuck”, “Taut”, “Rubber”, “Just Fucking”. There are no delicately-sung vocal lines to be found on Suckfish. This is loud music designed to replicate, in scatological detail, the intricacies of biological congress. If that sounds a bit too clinical for you, well, listen to a song like “Just Fucking”. There can really be no mistaking what this song is about: the very moment it starts in, with a brutal kick-drum punching through the speakers like a hammer, you realize that this is the reason why parents were so afraid of Elvis back in the day. The tune may have transformed into something unrecognizable from those early days of rock & roll, but the sexual implications of an insatiable backbeat never change. Sure enough, the beat remains a constant throughout the entirety of the song, but other themes enter, arpeggiated synth lines and 303 acid squelches tweaked in synch so as to build in intensity throughout the course of the sun, until reaching a—cough, cough—climax towards the end of the track.
But there’s more here than “Just Fucking”. Tracks like “Your Place or Mine” and “Wield” start from more subtle origins, artfully building multiple layers of diffuse textures. The rhythms are still implacable, the beat is still irresistible, but the overall effect is more subtle and sensual. There are more kinds of sex than merely just blind, aggressive pounding, but it all invariably comes back to the same rhythm. This is the rhythm at the heart of almost all pop music for the last half-century, and this is the very core of dance music.
But I don’t want to imply that this is, ultimately, anything more cosmic than a really good techno album. Two previously released singles, “Kisses” and “The Pong”, form the core of the album. They are both about as hard as you could hope to hear. For those who may appreciate the current microhouse trends but may have been missing something meatier, more in the mold of Dave Clarke or Slam, this is the cure for what ails you: slamming, percussive beats wedded to impossibly loud, inescapably psychedelic acid lines. This is satisfying on a deeply primal level.
In any year other than this year, which saw the release of Richie Hawtin’s magisterial DE9: Transitions, Suckfish would be a shoe-in for Techno Album of the Year. Unfortunately, given the prominence of said album, it will just have to settle for being #2. But, you know, I don’t think it matters: of the two, this is the CD you’ll want with you when you’re on a drunken spree in Tijuana.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/audion-suckfish/