Emptyset – Recur (2013)

How apt it is that an album presenting itself as one of Glitch and in particular Industrial Techno has been appropriated the name Recur by its creator; recur is defined as something that happens repeatedly or occurs again, or even as a memory that is brought back to one’s attention. This theme is extremely powerful throughout the release and is brought to our ears in the most attention grabbing way possible.

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Opener “Origin” warms up slowly, a growling hum acclimates the eardrums first as the memory or event is instigated slowly fading in and out to be replaced by equally cyclic rolling glitch stutters in between, something of a verse-chorus-verse structure if you can call it that. On the face of things it doesn’t really appear to be an evolving, progressive piece, but slowly each of the distinct facets becomes slightly more elongated and abrasive with each passing. It’s clear that this is going to be a dark and heavy album right from the off, so it’s time to crank up the volume a few notches and settle in for a hair raising ride.

“Fragment” begins to settle us into the more rhythmic side of things as we were promised, flinging heavy basslines alongside abrasive, staccato synths. Rushes of noise rush to fill the voids between each blat of the bassline, an intake of electronic breath, a rush of buzzing digital air. It’s sparse and dark and I like it a lot. It drops towards the end and we’re sucked into “Disperse”, introduced on a wave of soft drone before that infectious growling bassline comes back. It’s a huge component of this album and for anyone who doesn’t like the repetitious melodies of Techno you’re probably not going to like this a whole lot. “Disperse” is a whole lot more meandering, more syncopated than the previous tracks; like intermittent pulses of memory separated by seas of neurons the glitch is replaced by washes of distal drone air, the dead space between. Once the edges of the memory have been reached the track simply fades out into the void.

“Order” is perhaps my favourite track of the album; a repetitive synth note brings the track in almost like an alarm or klaxon, and we can’t say we weren’t warned when the vast glitch-bass arrives. It’s smothering in its thick, slow oscillations, grinding along relentlessly with absolutely no intention of stopping. It rolls along for a brief stint, kicks up at a trough as the notes become smeared together in an up-pitched spike of activity and continues as though nothing happened. Despite it’s regularity and homogeneity, there’s still something fascinating in the order, not to mention something distinctly chaotic as to how it’s presented to us. And it’s not unchanging; although across its 6 minute duration the climax is subtle it is present before it barrels out at the end to tumble into it’s yang “Absence”, which could not be further from the 6 previous minutes of music if it tried. The organised madness of matter in the former makes way for, well, nothing at all in the latter, a soundscape about as devoid of life as you can imagine, cruising along in the long night filled with a low roar, a stuttering distant drone that we can feel slowly rising to the surface in an ominous rush of sound, like headlights cutting through fog. Just as it’s about to the moment’s diffused and it slips away once more.

But it’s high time we brought some beats back into the fray isn’t it; “Lens” is on the case as flickers and flutters of synths come cutting through like searchlights, warping and refracting through the glass, altering the beam strength and distribution. On and on it goes but its search is fruitless but as it segues effortlessly into “Instant” where there’s a brief peak of attention right at the start in an alarming pulse of electronic warning; what was missing has now been found and the track gets into a heavy rhythm that sounds almost like footsteps marching onwards in acquisition. It stops intermittently to catch its breath, a swirl of white noise, before the heavy bass notes come cracking down again as they pave a way through the quagmire of our mind. The title track finally appears, a striking succession of hammering beats and glitch stutters that crash through nearly continuously, like the ticking over of a car’s engine we’re desperately trying to restart. Over and over again we try, hammering the steering wheel in vain mindlessly, pointlessly, but on and on we go expecting something to change or elicit a different response only to be continually disappointed.

But we reach it at last, “Limit”, whereupon we realise the fruitlessness of our actions in the frustrated, pent up energy of the drone swathes and grinding glitch that fill the final track. There’s no more actions to repeat, no more memories to replay or regurgitate, only the end.

It’s a brash, bold album to be sure, and it feels like it clocks in at much longer than it’s relatively accessible 35 minute duration, but it gets what it needs done. In fact it’s perfectly timed, Emptyset hasn’t tried to push his luck with the repetitive, cyclic beats and it pays off. The whole album is a surprising introspection at the unnecessary actions that we fill our lives with; the sily regrettable memories that we choose to echo endlessly, cringing over embarassing moments for example. This is something pretty unsurprising, but there is a darker side that questions the habitual and the rituals we repeat every day like waking, working, eating, going to bed. Endless cycles day in day out that we become locked into and fearful to escape from, not wanting to disturb the comforting placidity of regularity. Emptyset’s got the right idea; sometimes someone needs to say something really big and hard to accept to make a stand, and that’s exactly what this album does.

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