Published by Davide Pappalardo on May 14, 2017
Perc Trax is a household name in the world of techno, a label which features names like Ansome, AnD, Forward Strategy Group, Ben Gibson, and Perc himself. Dark, pounding, gritty industrial sounds are the weapons of choice of this roster, sometimes on the verge of rhythmic noise just like with the sophomore album by the aforementioned owner of the label, Perc a.k.a Alister Wells. The power and the glory, this is its name, was a work characterized by distorted beats and noisy atmospheres, sometimes reaching an imposing magnitude; it paved a way followed both by label mates and other names of the world of techno industrial.
Now he returns with Bitter music, where he explores a denser and more atmospheric sound, partially returning to the ambient experiments sometime tried on his debut Wicker & steel. Of course, that’s not to say this is a dull affair: once again rhythmic loops and industrial landscapes are on the menu, just as discordant effects, post-punk darkness and heavy kick-drums. If you’re looking for straightforward club tracks, maybe some episodes will quench your thirst, but be warned: this is a techno album with its own narrative, not a simple collection of tracks.
The opener Exit is a dystopic introduction full of deep, sci-fi bass, dreamy synth layers, and distorted, robotic vocals. It works perfectly as a warm-up, and by contrast it enriches the unrelenting techno-march of the following track Unelected, an oppressive affair with 4/4 kicks and pulsating sounds.
Wax Apple shows us the more playful side of his sound, recalling 70’s experiments and names like Brian Eno and John Cage thanks to the usage of piano samples and reverberations, while Chatter is at the same time atavistic, almost tribal, and futuristic, especially after the first minute, when its metallic beats develop a steady and hypnotic crescendo fully displayed on a background made of almost melancholic sounds.
The second part of the album gives us numbers like the cinematic and obscure The thought that counts, a bleeping ride which enthralls us with its sinister soundscapes and horror inspired chants, the hard techno oriented Spit (almost acid in its obsessive pattern and rhythmic crescendo full of desperate sampled vocals), and the club hit Look what your love has done to me, which features Elizabeth Bernholz of Gazelle Twin on vocals. This last one is probably the most straightforward track on the album, pounding the dancefloor with its cymbals and claps.
On Bitter music, Perc doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and people familiar with his sound and the whole techno-industrial genre will recognize many of the tropes linked its history. But this isn’t a rehearsal or a work empty of ideas: instead, these elements are used in a subtler, organized way, recovering the more experimental side of electro-acoustic and techno music, focusing especially on the rich English tradition of the genre. A work worth of many listening sessions, ready to disclosure its facets and layers.
Label: Perc Trax
Rating: 7, 5