Subskan :: Ambidextrous Asylums (Hymen)

Ambidextrous Asylums performs the heroic celebration of industrial production—and then narrates its post-modern obliteration. An entire factory complex is crushed down into a single, blankly-blinking bank of computers. The shadowy hand-almond of a smartphone has killed entire regions.

DJ and producer Subskan (aka Jean-Marx Polet) remains within a warp of obscurity—the German label behind his latest release, Hymen Records, suggest there are rumors he “worked in a factory and used pure industrial samples for his artistic work.” These utterances—made in the past tense—contribute toward the iris-scraping effort we make to glean a human body within these expressive industrial compositions. Subskan emerges as a kind of dark foundry-priest, summoning dense tides of sound and compacting them into assemblages in which they nearly fall apart from their too much proximity.

But this proximity—this crushing together—is what transforms Ambidextrous Asylums into a gorgeously perilous space. The asylum, a space of enclosure and withdrawal, becomes multiplied and already everywhere.

These are tracks which belong to production—field recordings, hushed bloating blankets of rusted noise—which collapse into an off-kilter, click-stuck armory of techno-induced beats. This is a work of quiet precision, giving over to messy slur—shimmering, atonal, haunted reveries surge amongst these oiled cores. If industrial music cut its mouth on the factory as its principal musical site, then tracks such as “Paradox” and “Rupture” are themselves a factory which has been uploaded into a cloud-mountain facility; house-like beats slip into the surface, and are dragged down again by the moaning formlessness of some great and undersea mythology. Much of what we hear is transformation—glitch-technics (stuttering past, surgically clothed) writhe over the wavering skin of euphoric synth. If these samples truly do come from literal (I want to say “real”) sites of manufacturing, then they are made to perform within a lucid world of digital manipulation. The release performs the heroic celebration of industrial production—and then narrates its post-modern obliteration. An entire factory complex is crushed down into a single, blankly-blinking bank of computers. The shadowy hand-almond of a smartphone has killed entire regions.

The gutty percussion of “Tromasis Abscissa” is draped around with vocal samples which fade into and out of hearing. Echo drills and spit-out shards of fine metal douse this noise yet further. Tracks such as “Paradox” do what Polet does best—accumulate. Snares, keys, whispering knifes of sound surge and condense around us. They have no skin. They are entirely not-cthonic. There is some fluted echo of Irmhard Emmelhainz’ argument that the post-factory, the ruptured continuity of the modern, is an “intolerable dependency,” of “systemic competition and destruction leading to self-destruction, even suicide.” The evacuated factory of Subskan’s work is haunted by the conditions under which it was produced; the bleak and crushing indifference brought about by the collapsing of the literal, material factory into bodiless, immaterial flows. Put another way, digital music production is wrapped in a death-struggle with the deep and layered prehistory of the analogue modernism which enabled industrial music to “become” in the first place.

But still, we find ourselves mired in—and slouching through—its remnants. This is an album as much about the things which led it to become, as much as it is a battery of sonic effects. And in this way, it becomes a seance with its own musical precursors.

Ambidextrous Asylums is available on Hymen.

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