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Dalglish - Benacah Drann Deachd

Highpoint Lowlife

The prospect of IDM – Intelligent Dance Music – was always in equal parts heroic, misguided, and arrogant. It suggests music that appeals to both the intellect and the senses, that moves the brain as much as it moves the feet. Deflated by its own promise, it is easy to understand why the music that unwillingly found itself collected beneath this generic banner has more recently spiralled into a zone of disrepair, often spoken of in terms characterised by mockery more than nostalgia. On Benacah Drann Deachd, Dalglish has occasion to revisit this territory, launching a dramatic reappraisal of ambient and glitch (and the fusion of the two) by hauling their entrails through the factory pistons of memory.

 The tracks here do not have titles as such but dates, one each from the years 2001-2011. It is not clear whether these reference the date of recording, or are merely an indicator that they constitute a more impressionistic series of epochal sketches. In any case, neither the soundworld the album offers nor its technique is particularly representative of the last ten years, beyond being characterised by a tendency to reflect and recombine. It is, however, inflected by the previous decade, opening with the plangent chords of early 90s ambient, recalling the likes of B12 or Global Communication, but with the harmonic stability of neither.

 The clicks, whirrs, and digital chirrups of the album fall from the familiar sonic palette of electroacoustic music but at times, the album takes a decidedly cinematic bent, taking cues from non-diegetic composition and sound design. “7.3.2009” in particular could be a factory worker’s film noir reverie, ruptured by rusty screeches. Elsewhere, the crunching and squeaking of “13.6.2003” and “5.8.2001” evoke the immersive detail of field recording. Perhaps these are the noises of corpuscular industry made by the brain itself, exposing the album as a soundwalk through the pathways of an apocalyptic neurology. The artwork’s wireframe exploding head seems to mark the suggestion.

As with much sonic experimentation, it is easy to wheel off references to machines and robots, to conjure up the sort of inhuman futures that resound in the nightmares of Fritz Lang or Philip K. Dick. But here the relationship is not quite so simple, nor the dystopia so clichéd. The sound of Benacah.. is not the sound of machines but of symbiosis with their operators, caught between machinic desire and slave labour. “30.12.2007” squelches as much as it whirrs, bringing to mind engine-propelled hatchets launched into flesh: Autechre’s 1997 album Chiastic Slide is summoned up, only to be repositioned as critique of a zombie Capitalism. Where machines are explicitly evoked, they belong in the factories of the industrial revolution far more than they do in the computer age. Occasional post-digital tendencies creep in, of course, but in a deeply embodied way. Rather than networked flows of pure information, “7.3.2008” evokes the transmission of fleshly data, somehow aqueous in its glitchy collapse.

Though often loop-based, the album is rhythmically lop-sided, with beats being pushed through a sieve on “1.7.2011”. The closest the album gets to recognisably dance-oriented music (intelligent or otherwise), on the other hand, is during the stuttering swell of distorted kicks on “3.9.2004”, like gabba falling down the stairs. The closing track conflates feral growls with steam-age rumbling, awkwardly deploying percussive clatters over the creeping return of ambient pads. Here the album, elsewhere so wildly disparate, finally coalesces as a stilted kind of requiem, painting a resting image of the IDM graveyard.

Toby Bennett

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Reader Comments (2)


July 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergrrrr

Yeah...I'd say that's a fairly accurate assessment - given the large amount of quality music in this genre, this one is fairly forgettable for the most part - although it felt more "ambient" than "IDM" to me.

October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean Michel Genre

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