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Conforce - Machine Conspiracy





Nearly two decades after “Cosmic Cars,” Detroit techno remains one of the most revered styles within the genre.  Self-consciously “artistic” and “soulful,” the sound invented by Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson has long since spread from the Motor City, finding advocates and devotees in every corner of the globe.  

The Dutch island of Terschelling, home to Borus Bunnik, is one such corner.  As Conforce, Bunnik has released a series of EPs that simultaneously pay homage to his Motor City heroes and present themselves as idiosyncratic works reflective of the sparse, grand nature of his northern home.  His first full-length for Meanwhile, ‘Machine Conspiracy,’ is no exception:  imagine Theo Parrish and Juan Atkins, laboring in a studio above the artic circle.   

If that sounds interesting to you, then you will enjoy much of what ‘Machine Conspiracy’ has to offer.  A word of caution: not all of the albums entries are equally promising.  Opener “The Land of the Highway” illustrates why a lot of people find Detroit techno’s “soul” pretentious and boring.   “First Impression” and “Robotic Arm Wrestle” are fairly dull Detroit electro, while “Intimidation” could be described as mail-it-in-minimal.   

Getting that out of the way, the rest of the album is definitely worth your time and attention.  “Sonar Conversations” is the kind of subtle after-hours track that seems a bit plain at first, but grows on you with every listen.  “Love-Hate” is an intimate, smooth number.   

Bunnik saves the best for last.  In fact, the final three tracks on the album are by far the best on offer.  Title track “Machine Conspiracy” is seriously atmospheric dub techno, spacey and evocative.  It not only reminds the listener of the Detroit founding fathers, but of their early European devotees, like Maurizio or Monolake.  “Rare Education” is another standout.  It features polyrhythmic synths layered over deep, sparse, but insistent bass.  This would sound great early on in a set, before moving on to darker and harder material.  Album closer “Stop Hold” is a change of direction towards the darker end of early 90s minimal techno.  Its dueling, filtered arpeggios are strongly reminiscent of Steve Rachmad’s early output as Sterac, yet by introducing the sparse, off-beat melody, manages to sound original at the same time.  It is such a strong track that I wish there’d been more like it on the album.   

All in all, ‘Machine Conspiracy’ demonstrates what’s great and what isn’t so great about Detroit-obsessed techno.  At his best, Bunnik expands the Detroit lexicon, adding new layers and thematic elements.  At other times, though, Bunnik doesn’t live up to the promise of his stronger outings.  It’s certainly worth a few listens through, and the better tracks should have wide appeal.  The weaker moments, though, won’t likely appeal outside the limited confines of Detroit obsessives. 

Gustav Brown

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