Between conceptual techno and pared-back hypgnosis, this year’s model is more nuanced, with less of the warm velvety and more of the cold clinical
In the last few years, Dutchman Boris Bunnik has been among more interesting (and prolific) of techno-auteurs. As Conforce, he embeds deep blue mood-scapes and off-world atmospheres in propulsive pieces of FX-heavy dub-tinged technoir that dials in Detroit and drives by Berlin, while going Dutch, sui generis. Where latest Kinetic Image is concerned, any ‘Dance’ designation is distinctly deferred, though. The title reflects its presiding concept—of music functioning like moving images, unfolding like passing landscapes; philosophically-inflected titles (“Semantic Field,” “Abundance of Selves,” “Anti-adaptive State”) further flag a more cerebral remit. To challenge his own creativity as well as the listener’s engagement, ‘something coherent but still …[with] a variety that tells a story, a deep interstellar journey that doesn’t need bangers or club beats to be compelling,’ was sought, ‘more floating, evolving, mental tracks.’
Kinetic Image sees the floor’s vanishing point, moving away from deep chord and 4/4 known to unknown rhythm and sound. A dank and dusky design has always been within the house style, 2011’s Escapism more so than debut, Machine Conspiracy, but here even more opaque depths are plumbed. Side projects, Silent Harbour and Versalife, have shifted between ambient and electro, but Conforce is the convergence of all trajectories. It’s all gauzy atmo and reverb-drenched pad plate-shift over staticky micro-rhythms, but Bunnik varies beat-feel, spatiality, and density of his texture webs. A semblance of same-iness recedes when surface is peeled to reveal differentiating detail. We learn he ‘…went back to a more digital post production process, using more computer based tools than on my last album, simply because it shaped the timbres and atmospheres I wanted to make.’ “Spatiotemporal” homes in on mid-range detail, choreographing sounds like vast air pockets bubbling up and bursting in sparkling water, while “Scientific Trajectory” sets a drum-thrum minimum against brooding banks of synthy warp’n’wooze, high-range clicks above and abyss below. “Abundance Of Selves” takes a desolate hook, bass lollop and soft chord pulses, and pings analog patter round a field of sound bound from a slacker acid school to a sub-aquatic cavern of ripples, drips and scrapes. More percussive programming comes–in cautious scuttles (“Semantic Field”), iridescent chords and claps (“Anti-Adaptive State”), or scudding beat buzz (“Excess Mortality”). Elsewhere are electro-inflections (“Underwater Settlers”), Autechre-esque tendencies (“Formerly Programmed Decisions”), and doleful drone with knackered bpms (“Optimum Pace”).
Overall, then, between conceptual techno and pared-back hypgnosis, this year’s model is more nuanced, with less of the warm velvety and more of the cold clinical. But for all its somewhat doleful technoid mechanics, the home listener with a well-tooled techno fancy should find its detailed sound just as seductive. While we’re here, Conforce fans will be happy Bunnik’s dusted off the Hexagon alias, and his own Transcendent label, for the Blue Hour EP. Though voices of his other projects are undeniably audible—see esp. the eerie “Absentum” and the ‘floor nodding electro-skitter of “Spectral Analysis,” articulation comes in different accents—on the more delicate “Forecasts,” the eerie “Physical Dimension,” and the frozen “Illuminated Atoms.”
Kinetic Image is available on Delsin.