Techno will always live on, or perhaps remain undead, because of folks like Conforce’s Boris Bunnik. While this statement may seem a bit hyperbolic, Bunnik seems to be making it his life’s mission. After a series of successful EPs and singles for the likes of Rush Hour, Field, Curle, Delsin, and Modelisme, Conforce has recently dropped his first full length under the generic dystopian sci-fi tag Machine Conspiracy.
Bunnik’s lifelong love is contained within a narrative so pitch-perfect that it’s almost mythic. Raised in Terschelling in the Netherlands, a remote island with a population of less than 5,000 total, Bunnik’s father discovered an esoteric cassette deep in the woods while on patrol at his job as a forester. Bunnik had to actually wait to obtain a tape player to discover the contents within; the exotic sounds of Carl Craig, Joey Beltram, Speedy J, et al.
It’s Craig’s definitive influence that seems to inform nearly all of the Conforce material to date, though that’s hardly the only reference point. Machine Conspiracy is almost perfectly divided between a perfectly distilled paean to a dreamland version of Detroit Techno on the A side and a latter day reinterpretation of such through the murky dub-soaked lens of Chain Reaction and DeepChord/Echospace minimalism on the flip side. As such, Machine Conspiracy is not a game changer, but makes a great argument for the eternal versatility of sweet harmonious sine waves.
There’s little here as bouncy as, say, “Cruising” from last year’s essential Cruising EP. However, like the best of motor city synth engineering, Conforce lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and still makes you want to move when you could just as easily chill. The best of the cuts that fit this description is perhaps the glacial smooth of album opener, “The Land of the Highway”, one of three tracks that constituted the Love & Hate EP (all of which can also be heard here). “The Land of the Highway” is unabashedly pretty, evocative, and scenic, a smooth strip of Utopian motorcade passage that is clean, uncluttered, and comfortable — a machine conspiracy if I’ve ever heard one.
The album’s a bit front-loaded and that’s not just because the second side dissolves standbys such as the vocoder voice on “Robotic Arm Wrestle” and requires a bit more patience. “Subtraction” is full-on ambient whose title is peculiar in that the bandwith of the bass doesn’t seem to have allowed much room for subtraction at all. Its lethargic pulse seems trapped in a dull migraine-fueled K-hole, stripped of all emotion. In an otherwise colorful hue of songs, it’s a soggy umbrella minimalism whose momentum alone may have been enough had the whole lot of richly hued tunes been deep house stomps. Conversely, “Intimidation”, a tribute to the Berghain sound of Marcel Dettman and Ostgut Ton, takes a while to find its feet, but shoots the hairs up on the back of the listener’s neck by track’s end with its waltz of ghostly dub shards.
Machine Conspiracy doesn’t exactly make the case that Conforce is just as successful an album-artist as he is a creator of beatific singles, but Machine Conspiracy strongly makes the case for techno in an era when its most widely discussed purveyors have either shrunk the music beyond visibility or mutilated it beyond likability.