Published by Alessandro Violante on February 24, 2016
It’s never that easy to talk about John and Paul Healy’s music, better known as Somatic Responses, as, although during their whole career, moving from hardcore techno to the golden age of rhythmic noise (for what they’re best known) to their current formula, their focus on the rhythm, folded in infinite different ways, has always been evident, their music has always escaped from easy genres cataloguing, as well as their complex rhythmic architectures, always different, continually disassembled and reassembled in a postmodern and post-industrial way, have always been difficult to set, several miles away from any hypothesis of placement.
In their music, including that contained in this very good Folding Space, released a dozen of days ago by the historic label Hymen Records, Ant Zen’s sublabel, that elusiveness and that initial difficulty in totally understanding their music that characterize their whole oeuvre emerges once again, fully revealing itself, only after several listenings, in its completeness and in its complexity, returning to the listener the feeling of listening to a small masterpiece that alternates IDM, ambient, techno and rhythmic noise and that, if it’s true that music doesn’t only represent itself but also a geographical area, a social and cultural context and many more, also returns everything that is around Somatic Responses’s music, their city Ammanford, that in the past was a mining city, located in the southern Wales.
As well as the miners endlessly contribute in modifying the structure of the mine by means of their pickaxes, the two rhythm artisans continually deconstruct it, subsequently constructing it again in a neverending process that always returns new solutions, aiming at exploring the endless sonic possibilities. However, Somatic Responses aren’t simply rhythm explorers, but also smart alchemists of the possibilities offered by the synthesizers, creating an awesome example of communication among synthetic acid landscapes and intelligent rhythmic structures. Nowadays, Somatic Responses focus less on the use of the classic rhythmic industrial trademarks and more on an approach closer to certain “English IDM”, without losing their unique formula and without distancing too much their approach from the “German” one.
In fact, Folding Space is an alternation of compositions more linked to the “English sound”, such as Coldway, Metaphysical modeling and Inharmonic discourse (DPO mix) and others more linked to the “German sound”, such as Televised death vote and, in particular, Life cycle, with its powerful distortions that the enthusiasts of a certain sound will adore, but the album can also be thought of as a sort of journey (also thanks to a very smart tracklist choice) that begins with episodes influenced by Autechre’s IDM lesson, progressively shifting towards a darker and more physical sound, progressively abandoning (without never totally doing it) that “bedroom-artificial sound” that sometimes lacks a bit of incisiveness. This is the difference between the Welsh’s music and the English intelligent classic sound. In their music there’s a good balance between physicality and abstraction, and there’s also a tribute paid to Kraftwerk in the Coldway’s ambient mix, in which more than something of the “German Masters” can be listened.
Folding Space is a very good example that doesn’t have boring moments and that, even after several listenings, can unveil some additional element; an album in which several solutions perfectly coexist; an album that often demonstrates to go over the limit, succeeding in doing it. Although it can be useless to specifically talk about every single episode, the very particular melodic idea of the already quoted Inharnomic discourse (DPO mix) should be quoted, moving between the darker side of Aphex Twin and a likewise incisive and well thought techno beat, but here the most interesting element is the melodic inharmonic idea, an element that allows the listener to remember it. In the titletrack, there’s a frenzied, agitated and rough drum ‘n bass-derived very fast rhythm, the critique of Televised death vote, this one a less IDM and more post-industrial episode, the already quoted perfect dialogue between the retro synth ideas and the raw rhythmic industrial of Life cycle and many, many more.
Folding Space is an album that switches on again the attention to Somatic Responses, extremely prolific musicians but unfortunately far from the public eye (maybe for the physicality and the heaviness of their formula, elements that are, at the same time, their strenghts), besides being a very good release for Hymen / Ant Zen that, listening to the high quality of this album (and not only this one), makes us expect a lot from them during this 2016. That of Somatic Responses, until now, is one of the best albums of the current year.
Score: 9, 5
Label: Hymen Records