On his debut album ATAXIA, Sheffield-born DJ and producer Rian Treanor has challenged himself to make his sound shift and warp in unpredictable and irregular new ways. Essentially, he has taken on the unenviable task of articulating his ideas in a whole new sonic language. However, rather than use recognizable patterns or rhythms he focuses on structuring sounds, in a more angular, geometrical way, and seeing how they fit like jigsaw pieces from completely different puzzles.
Of course, the danger with challenging yourself to forge new tools to assist you in the creative process is that the music itself suffers. Fortunately, Treanor manages to avoid the obvious pitfalls and creates music emblematic of an artist determined to explore the dichotomies and contrasts in electronic music. It’s an album that constantly seems in a state of flux with sounds constantly shifting and evolving, all carefully corralled by a skillful and articulate producer.
The album opens with an impassive, female voice over steady, cultish drums and sinister, yawning synths on “Ataxia_A1”. The whole thing plays out like a more avant-garde take on Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier” as the voice conjugates verbs based on our basic human needs such as peeing, pooping, and having sex. It’s certainly an interesting opening and one that makes for one of the more bizarre earworms you might wake up with on a sunny day. “Ataxia_A2” is more recognizably a techno track, albeit one that sounds like it is in the process of deconstructing itself. With chiming metallic percussion and layers of glitchy synths that rain down like an intense hail storm, Treanor seems to be hellbent on sailing the whole thing as close to the sun as he can.
As the track comes to its head-spinning conclusion, Treanor journeys further into the belly of the machine as stretched, pulsing sound waves expand and contract before giving way to scuttling synths, and off-kilter techno beats do battle as if attempting to stave off the attack. The more danceable “Ataxia_B2” opens with a Lollywood sample that he cuts up and loops for maximum effect. Adding layers of interlocking percussion, Treanor creates a frenetic, experimental dance track.
On “Ataxia_C1” Treanor launches a barrage of punched pads and crisp snares as stuttering synths jabber away as if communicating in a nascent robotic language. Despite the chaos, Treanor still finds room for bright, expansive synths to flare, illuminating everything before it, like a distant distress beacon. “Ataxia_C2” is a lesson in layering percussion. With each element brought in like adding another coat of white paint to an already dazzlingly bright room, the whole thing becomes a blindingly hypnotic techno track with a skewed rhythm that intrigues as much as it inspires twitchy, eccentric movement
“Ataxia_D1” is made up of insectile synths that buzz and zip like wasps caught under a glass jar. It’s a prime example of how Treanor tames even the most kinetic of sounds to achieve the sound lurking in his head. “Ataxia_D2” is equally as dynamic with trap beats and bounding synths that jerk into life as if suddenly being administered a shot of adrenaline. Closer “Ataxia_D3” takes its cues from classic house with a looped vocal sample and hazy, late-night keys that draw you in for closer inspection like discovering a pumping dance party in an abandoned warehouse and waltzing right on in.
Often the music on ATAXIA feels like an answer to a tangled, multifaceted puzzle such is the level of complexity on show. On occasions, the computerized elements threaten to overwhelm the album, but Treanor understands that the music still requires a beating human heart to resonate with the listener. When they do come, these human elements shine through giving it soul and greater depth. On his debut album, Treanor has mastered a whole new sonic vocabulary that gradually destabilizes and erodes existing principles and practices of electronic music to create something wholly unique.