A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Raster Noton
Release Date: 10.29.13
RIYL: Prurient, Rrose, Powell, Raime, Violetshaped, Pete Swanson
The famed Bristolian duo return with their third full length, and first for electronic powerhouse Raster Noton. It’s their mightiest bitchslap to date.
James Ginzburg and Paul Bergas investigate time and space within the confines of 5 minute club pummelers. Replicating the experience of “production without the content”, Emptyset’s battery of sub-bass, siren-like synths, repetitive motion and ample use of space puts you in an endless factory at the center of a wormhole. The tools of production grind on and on, long since having ceased producing anything of any value. This is the REAL dark ambient; this is trve noise music.
As usual, Boomkat has it right on the money when they talk of a “colossal/crushed aesthetic” and, while describing album opener “Origin”, “the album’s central sound seems to oxidise from thick, heavy air, attracting and diffusing shuddering clouds of iron filings which take on ever more fascinating, complex geometries”. You can practically feel the air coagulate and polarize, a sphere of magnetic hematite rising above the speakers. It’s smooth, but gritty.
Recur is largely devoid of melody, or any human component, and will be a refreshing respite for those dancers out there that love to have their marrow shook by deep powerful frequencies but are sick to death of soulless caterwauling divas poorly stitched to micro disco house. Emptyset’s music is stripped down and efficient, and they have found a good home at Raster Noton, and expanding that label’s clinical white intellectual aesthetic, in the process.
Check this quote, from the press release:
the album furthers the project’s exploration of rhythm, dislocation and feedback within the framework of full frequency sound, structural abstraction and analogue processing. the work examines how notions of time interact with both experience and form, and the resulting modes through which this affects sound through compression and rarefaction and the forcing of signal thresholds to their critical point.
If you follow these pages, you will already know that there’s few movements we follow with such ferocity, such curiosity, as the burgeoning Industrial Techno scene, (which really needs a better name), the crossroads where the dancefloor and harsh noise and power electronics intersect. We’ve been fanatical devotees of electronic music of every shade and stripe since 1996, and have followed every emergent scene with interest. Like the big-eyed, nocturnal creatures that we are, we rejoiced with the early rise of dubstep, where outsider producers were fusing romanticism and melancholy with the power and fury of bass frequencies.
That scene got co-opted roughly around the same time that information exploded all over our faces, and we all became permanently and irrevocably post-modern. Everything seemed like a copy of a copy, and we just didn’t know where to go. We doubted that there would ever be anything new ever again. We were doomed to an endless future of permutations.
Drowning in possibilities, we stripped things back to the basics, down to the quanitization grid. Genres are largely defined by their tempo, rhythm and structure, which is how we differentiate a drum ‘n bass track from house to trance. Where the mainstream looked for new and interesting ways to fill the 8-bar, verse/chorus/verse/breakdown formula, adventurous producers looked for new ways to shake their sounds, working with but also defying the grid, and newer genres like Trap and Juke were born. Also, as an antidote to the technological precision, producers starting getting back into handmaking things, revelling in the joys of the analog, of the individual, of the irreproducable.
Emptyset have broken free of genres, of the diamond net of the grid. They organize their rhythms like a minefield, or a decaying house. They are setting scenes, painting pictures, and revitalizing the form in the process.
Producers like Emptyset and Prurient are reconsidering the possibilities of extreme volume and frequencies, and creating deadly efficient tracks that would still work on a Saturday night, even if it is for a much murkier and more dismal crowd.
It couldn’t come a moment to soon. These producers are the inheritors of the harsh noise crown. The previously extreme harsh noise scene has, in large part, degenerated to a sea of imitators who are aping appearance over content (ironic, i realize, seeing how vacant Recur is). The static walls and black wind have become as predictable as a sub-bass wobble drop in brostep, designed to make weak-minded followers feel mighty and subversive as they thumb their copies of Bataille and Sartre.
Harsh noise was designed to activate the reptilian cortex of the brain, sending up massive fight-or-flight responses as yr nervous system prepares to be consumed by an anaconda or a grizzly bear. It was also meant to imitate, and indoctrinate, the listener into a world of extreme industrial soundscapes. Let’s be honest, we are living in a world of power electronics.
The tools and the end goals of both techno and noise remain as valid and as powerful as ever, which is why it makes sense it would move over to the dancefloor. Both styles are a kind of extreme, post-industrial trance musick, designed to activate Theta states and rock yr body. Repetitive rhythm is as effective as extreme volume in producing an altered reality, as we have seen from William Bennett’s recent work as Cut Hands.
All of this philosophizing fails to mention the fact that Emptyset’s music is dead sexy. It will transform a club or bedroom into some massive S&M club from yr dreams/nightmares. It all boils down to the bass, which is most of what makes up their music. Smooth, round and full, the most gorgeous growling bassweight in existence; it is like getting fucked by the absolute.
There’s not a bad track in the bunch, and you’d be advised to take this sugarpill whole, but it does get more rhythmic towards the end, culminating in the powerful pistons of “Limit”, so those more geared towards standard DJ fare or the merely curious would be advised to start towards the middle.
Recommended Tracks: Fragment, Recur, Limit