These three releases (10-20′s Magnet Marsh, Isodyne’s Dreams Torn From The Sky and Nanorhythm’s Beyond the Green Wall) show Broken20′s faculties very much intact in their drawing together of fragments across the electronic spectrum from washed out wonk-tronica to headf**k techno.
(February—2012) Broken20 is a nearly new label run by Marcia Blaine School for Girls alumni, Ruaridh Law aka TVO with trusty assistant, Production Unit, and sometime helper, Erstlaub. It purports to be “sprung from an aesthetic concerned with decay, erosion, entropy, mistakes and errors, line noise and tape hiss, hum and buzz,” and operates at the interstices of drone, ambient, dub and techno. These are roughly the coordinates of the trajectory of Isodyne’s Dreams Torn From The Sky and Nanorhythm’s Beyond the Green Wall, two of its late 2011 releases. Before these, though, a look at their first of 2012, a first on Broken20 for 10-20 (no relative!), Magnet Marsh—a double first in fact, inaugurating as it does their new tape offshoot, Broken60.
[Release page] 10-20, to the ambient techno-scenti and IDM-pathic, will evoke more than that flat cipher’s face value, prompting recall of a febrile debut on late lamented Highpoint Lowlife and a subsequent questing EP series (Island, Lake, Mountain and Isthmus). A recent reminder of the enigmatic Devonian’s continued fertility came via a contribution to the commemorative Igloo Trax V2: The Most Music. Moving away from previous topographies, Magnet Marsh finds 10-20 foraging in lush gro(o)ves with unkempt borders to compile a free-floating audio scrapbook of fractured harmonics and broken kinesis; it’s populated with scuffed scavengings from sampling skips, bottom pushed and pulled, top and middle evaporated and dissolved. Tape division chief, Production Unit, sees fit to accompany it with a rationale for a tape label – possibly otiose, given the recent flood from a US-based new wave cassette underground, though it identifies its own raison d’être in semiotic linkage of object, sound, and emotion. Magnet Marsh is tooled as if a Broken60 showhome exhibit, both in the dislocative saturation and granular drizzle of the tape medium and in its otherized sounds—mufflings, distentions, pitch-shiftings—sometimes seeming as if reconstructed via disintegrative memory; figures melt in colour fields bordering the BoC School of Artful attenuation. Tracks no sooner start to run than they stumble, then return; percussive patterns emerge, peeking, hide-and-seeking from hardline head-nod imperatives; the beat is elusive, unconducive; the texture—plastic, fantastic, like text processed in slowly invisibilizing ink. Disassembly does a disservice, but for taste test’s sake take “RHTLOML,” and its queasy evacuations harking back to debut while moving to meatier beat manifestoes; the glow-fi chill of “Gold Ninety” or, by way of contrast, “Escape from Prism.” a skulk in malevolent pulsing shadows, smeared with slug-tone slime-trails. So the stage is set somewhere between the droney post-Kosmische of Digitalis and the genre-cidal post-everything of Tri Angle, with the spindly hop-step-and-bump of various from, say, FlyLo to Lone to Mount Kimbie in the wings. The rhythm method with stagger and smudge (see, e.g., “Dead Sea Lemonade”), while nothing new—a ‘wonk’ by any other name, comes with a differently configured atmo-plugin: an oneiric drowning pool of YouTube and net hi-jacks set in its melodious crunk—a cache of arcane and archaic, of sound etiolation and aetiology; pianos and voices swimming with Orientalist and African instruments in a po-mo urban-meets-exotica sampledelia: an OCD OST to “a place behind the enterprise zone retail park” (the Magnet) “adjacent to the ancient city of Teotihuacan” (the Marsh). Concept aside, Magnet Marsh impresses for its own sake, regardless, as the sardonic press release suggests, of “whether you rate it for all sorts of culturally bagagged reasons.” Its 21 tracks are cumulative—blurring into two side-long continua, Broken60 preserving this (with tape hiss) in a two-part extended mp3 download: editor’s voice, perhaps, saying this Marsh is made for more than a few splashes in a dip-in-and-out paddle pool, but for diving deep into for long lengths of multi-sensory head swim.
[Release page] Atmospheric scene shift to a techno-drone ice dome under which Patrick Walker operates. On Dreams Torn From The Sky he takes the eerie noir-techno purveyed as part of Forward Strategy Group, draws it out and smudges its contours for his new vehicle, Isodyne. DTFTS finds a way of getting its kicks through reconciliation, taking up the reined-in of Broken20 while muzzling the mauling of FSG for a dance of veils and nocturnal hums, stalking kicks and sunken bass manoeuvres, with more space for Walker’s inner sound designer; a propos, Murcof, Fluxion and James Bernard are mentioned as model workers. Purportedly rooted in memory of growing up in a small Scots village, “a grey, hazy place with typically silvery skies and misty water-scapes,” his work finds a visual analogue in the cover art, themed with its greyscale sonic contents: a doom-gloom more indulgent than genuinely unsettling—like the sumptuous shadows a devout sun-shunner might bask in, or the luxuriant detritus tub a spa-spurner might soak in; that’s “Burn It All To Ashes,” malingering en route, skirting British murder boy ’hoods via Sandwell District, colours coming halfway from neon-lit percussive chordal timbres. There’s an atmospheric affinity with Italian dark ambient dabbling techie-types, Obtane and Giorgio Gigli (Zooloft) here, though “River Of Ruin” then switches to lighter GAS-eous fuel, finding a felicitous linkage of Pop Ambient texture and Dub method. “Sentinel” shifts to a frostier evacuated mise-en-scène for enacting some broken-beat dub ritual, slowly summoning some solemn freight to a cavernous back-throb. Much of the EP’s substance comes from the use of sampled sound rather than synthesis, through which Walker seeks to get at ‘hyper-visceral’ experience. The set moves toward closure with a lightening of the heavy weather in “Answer To No One,” a more minimal house style warehouse thumper that nag-nag-nags with insistent stab’n’squiggle against a much thinned out version of the foregoing dream-dub backdrop. Finally, Bossman TVO phones in an extended remix of “Sentinel” that throws just about every techno and IDM trope of the last two decades against the wall to see how much will stick—happily, most of it, by halfway through its 11-minute buildup-workout breakdown-rework span.
[Release page] Beyond the Green Wall EP is newbie Nanorhythm’s first outing with a nicely non-generic minimal techno vehicle whose nagging engagement bespeaks a more substantial background. It features two tracks of floor-focused outer limits synthetics, backed up by three remixes courtesy of Spatial and a brace from (hello, it’s) TVO. Nanorhythmic man Richard Wragg may be familiar from his ill-ec-tro-nic blog and asociated club night, via which, after a TVO guest set, a demo of this EP’s main meal, “Continental Breakfast,” found its way onto a podcast before Broken20’s founding finally afforded the foundling a home. It proposes a judiciously emplaced synth stab that flutter-flits through a skittery beat pattern of unidentified genre provenance to a gauzy backdrop mingling a curlicue or two of Kosmiche and a pick’n’mix of Sheffield steel and Mancunian Rhythm’n’Booth (’n’ Brown); it cycles on happily with no recourse to dynamic dramatics, simply twisting and twirling with subtle microvariations in material and motion. “Amniotic Haze,” more of a depth strategy, summons headier atmospheres through a twilight pad swirl and a remote sonar ping for a lowlit peer through Berlin velvet dub drapes opening up to Detroit-padded skies. A satisfyingly smooth brew through which to chew before another helping or two of “Breakfast” re-cooks. Firstcomer is Spatial with a reheat of choice morsels based on his preferred staple of sub-bass and UK garage-driven shimmy; it gathers layers of percussive accretions providing fertile ground for the original’s infectious earworm return, then builds bleepily through an aether of synth suspensions. Then (hello again) TVO, who unveils his “for A&R Stuff Mix,” compounding the original’s bounce and shuffle with a woozy arpeggiating topping before letting the 4/4 doof loose, then shifting again to break the beat. It’s this broken battery that powers the minimalist recursions of the final “for Thor mix” with its Reichian warp and weave of marimba-esque syncopations drawn from that source synth meme. Compelling stuff, which those with an appetite for distraction may like to further indulge on freebie, Further Beyond The Green Wall.
All in all, these three releases show Broken20’s faculties very much intact in their drawing together of fragments across the electronic spectrum from washed out wonk-tronica to headf**k techno.
Magnet Marsh, Dreams Torn From The Sky and Beyond the Green Wall are available now from Broken20.