Daniel Avery has always had a gift for making techno that hearkens back to a bygone era without sounding purely nostalgic. There are traces of big beat, shoegaze, and classic Detroit in his sound, but they all coalesce into something bigger than just 1990s throwback-ism. Andy Weatherall summed up Avery’s music best: “Gimmick-free machine-funk of the highest order.” Maybe that’s the secret. For all its hodgepodge of influences, Avery’s techno never feels gimmicky or overstuffed with bleeps and bloops and sci-fi FX. It’s retro, but never in-your-face retro.
On his latest LP, Together in Static, Avery’s influences are more overt than ever before. It’s impossible to listen to this album without thinking of Seefeel, Nathan Fake, Boards of Canada, and other late-’90s-to-early-aughts electronic greats. Together in Static moves along at a glacial tempo, full of mournful ambience, slow-motion beats, and waterlogged synth tones. There’s an analogue warmth to the LP that makes you want to curl up inside every track. The result feels more like 2001 than 2021, taking you back to a time when the internet still felt like a novelty and the digital world still felt like the future.
“Nowhere Sound” is pure Boards of Canada territory, with its sleek downtempo groove and buttery synth lines. “A Life That Is Your Own” has the pastoral shimmer of a Nathan Fake track, with its anthemic keyboards and wall-of-sound electronics. And even when the LP takes on darker hues, it still retains an undeniable bounce and lightness of being. “Yesterday Faded” and “Endless Hours” are loose, baggy monsters of warehouse rave, but both songs are overlaid with some of the album’s brightest keyboards. Even the hardest-hitting moments here feel warm and immersive.
Together in Static lacks the sonic range of its predecessor, Love + Light, but what it lacks in sonic range it makes up for in cohesion. Love + Light was a messy album; rather than launch any proper album campaign, Avery piecemealed various demoes into a full-length that, for all its highs, felt rushed and half-formed. Together feels more plodding and meticulous. The highs aren’t quite as breathtaking, but the album as a whole feels cleaner and more streamlined.
At times, however, the album’s strength can also be its weakness. Many of these tracks blur together, and while that’s probably the point, the lack of differentiation can occasionally make for an uninspired listen. There aren’t as many surprises as a typical Avery album would feature. Songs like the title track and “The Pursuit of Joy” veer into wallpaper ambience and feel more like interludes than full songs. Clearly, Daniel Avery is going for a Boards of Canada-vibe here, but did he limit himself by going so hard in one direction? It’s hard not to miss all the twists and turns and genre switch-ups of albums like Drone Logic. By Avery’s standards, Together in Static feels a little too safe for its own good sometimes.
Altogether, the Bournemouth DJ’s latest makes for a solid but unspectacular listen. It won’t knock you flat, and it probably won’t light up too many dancefloors, but for fans of early-aughts techno, there is plenty to love. Daniel Avery may sacrifice some of his versatility here, but his music is still as rich and evocative as ever.