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Perc - Wicker & Steel

Perc Trax
In the last decade or so Perc has released singles and EPs prolifically on a who’s-who of techno labels, so a first album seems long overdue. Wicker & Steel is that debut, and though it may not all be the “proper” techno Perc is perhaps best-known for, it’s so suffused with the teeth-grinding industrial aesthetic that its nose bleeds pure Brum and Berlin.

And how do you start such a brutal 50-minute workout? With a sample of best-selling novelist and mid-90s indie-boy-wank-bank staple Louise Wener, of course. Although, admittedly, her no-one-understood-me monologue is pitchbent to oblivion in “Choice” over a backdrop of dissonant drones. It’s an intriguing start, and it segues seamlessly into “My Head Is Exploding”, a more typical slab of hewn breakbeat granite highlighting the album’s strengths: sharp dynamics and a crisp and satisfying production. This is then taken to an extreme on “Start Chopping”, which is a pretty unrelenting barrage of jackhammers which becomes somewhat trying to listen to. Unless you’re a fucking hardcore nutbag like me, obviously.

Speaking of fucking hardcore nutbags, Ed Rush & Optical seem to have become a bit of an easy go-to on press releases as a convenient shorthand for music where space seems carved out of the beats. But it’s a surprisingly apt reference for “You Saw Me” (techstep meets post-dubstep techno - quite predictable and slightly earnest) and particularly album closer “Jmurph” (techstep meets a metal-bashing “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu” at a lower BPM - much better).

Returning to the running order, things really pick up for “Pre-Steel”, a terrifying drone piece which sounds like a steam train enthusiast’s vision of Hades after a bad trip on the coal gas; and the excellent “Gonkle”, its propulsive 4/4 energy recalling the standout Substance track from last years Ostgut comp. Then “London, We Have You Surrounded” ends a strong mid-section with another intense breakbeat cut. I’m never sure if “boshing” is a positive adjective but in this case it definitely is. A slight let-down is the plodding “Snow Chain” which doesn’t really go anywhere or enjoy getting there.

Wicker & Steel? As an inveterate object fetishist, I think I would prefer the “Steel” bangers anonymously released on hand-stamped white labels, referred to by catalogue number alone and near-impossible to get hold of. But, when mixed in with the more atmospheric semi-ambient tracks, the “Wicker” perhaps, there’s a duality at the core of the album which will doubtless lend itself to repeat listens.
Sam Stagg

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