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Planetary Assault Systems - Temporary Suspension


First of all, let’s quantify matters with the statement that Luke Slater made some of the best techno in the 90’s, and deserves to be lauded with the same level of attention and plaudits as producers such as Carl Craig, Jeff Mills or Wolfgang Voigt. The Morganistic, 7th Plain and Clementine albums are all classics of their time.  There, that’s that out of the way. Fast forward to 2009 and 15 years on from Slater’s golden period, we have a new Planetary Assault Systems album, and it’s been released with impeccable timing. As the world of techno shoulders the burden of Berghain’s 130 bpm stomp legacy, it’s timely to hear some new music from a producer whose influence on this scene is not to be underestimated.

It’s immediately apparent that even after nearly a decade in relative hiatus Slater’s ear for the dancefloor hasn’t gone away. This is a brutal, no-nonsense tracky affair that dispenses with anything cerebral and pretty much carries on where he left off in the late 90’s. What does this tell us? Does it say that techno hasn’t really done much in that time, or that his productions were so far ahead that it’s only now that we’re catching up? It’s difficult to tell, but I’m guessing it’s most likely the former. The title “Temporary Suspension” itself perhaps provides us with the answer in this case.

The opener “Open Up” to me bears the influence of Jeff Mills to a great extent, in particular the sort of uneasy, ambiguous rhythms and atmospheres that decorate the “Metropolis” soundtrack. It’s an excellent start, punctuated by some unusual claps and delicate sounds that hint at an intriguing lo-fi direction.  We’re then confronted with the sort of distorted noise-fest that is quite rare in techno nowadays in “Whodoo” and a jacking workout in “Hold It” that recalls Relief-era Chicago at its best. It’s important to note that there is a tremendous amount of detail in this album, hidden underneath crushing 909s and layers of production noise. “X speaks to X” is pure unadulterated, mindless techno that carries all the hallmarks of a Slater release, and it’s difficult to pick holes in it, as he has the ability to change an ordinary techno track into something emphatic.  For me, the title track is arguably the weakest, recalling the Function/Sandwell District sound that seems to be gaining so much popularity right now, and its crisp linear lines jar against the rough edges of atmosphere and jagged noise that colour the rest of this album.  There’s time for another Mills paean with the downbeat “Gateway to Minia” (Even the title sounds like him) before the album closes with more mindless energetic funk in “Sticker Man”.

It’s very possible that we’re going to revisit the early 90’s for ideas in music soon, as cycles with nostalgia seem to be moving that way. If James T Cotton can reinterpret early Chicago acid and deflect the criticisms of plagiarism with ease, why can’t Luke Slater return to his roots? “Temporary Suspension” is a rare case of an album that delivers a full set of tools to the DJ, but also provides enough richness in its musical aesthetic to be taken seriously as an album. As mentioned before, Slater colours his productions with a raw colour that is difficult to hear in today’s Techno, and there’s an unpredictability there amongst the crushing rhythms. An old master returns with vigour.

Toby Frith



Reader Comments (1)

Hi there,

The artwork that you posted comes from the EP, not the full length.


FUll Length:

Just helping out,


October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterw

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