CD Reviews 10 Dec 2005

caustic endifENDIF vs. CAUSTIC – Meld

(2005   Dead Beat Productions)

The dark edge that has permeated much of Madison’s electronic musical identity is made vividly clear on this disc.  Two of this town’s most twisted dark-beat alchemists have joined together to frame the state of noise manipulations in our little Midwestern enclave.  The sounds on Meld are diverse and dank, with crafted static creeping eerily around every corner.  Endif supplies four tracks, Caustic supplies four more, and each takes on remixing duties for the other while fellow local electro pioneer ctrlshft supplies two remixes, one for each act.  The result of this effort is a stark, crazed and emotive creation that truly finds its voice when played very loud in a very dark club, with smoke and strobes accentuating the gritty beats and ripping synths. 

Endif starts the disc with sculpted noise building the initial breakbeat.  The abrasive production allows for full, tight bass even as the distorted edges seem just an inch away from tearing themselves apart.  It’s in tracks like “Totenplatz” that the EBM aesthetic is really brought into focus.  The ambitious absorption of hooky synths and elements of trance into the industrial architecture create a floor-friendly track that will drive the club kids bloody mad.  “Sleeper Cell” moves decisively and aggressively towards the Hellscape works of Skinny Puppy in their “Killing Game” heyday.  Caustic’s remix of “Sleeper Cell” manages to add a funky, rolling groove to a decidedly anti-funk composition, demonstrating how an open-minded, creative reinterpretation can shed a very different light on an ambitious tune.

As Caustic steps up, the dark pads and noise-infused drum loops create a more minimal and less chaotic presence than Endif.  Cautic’s use of silence and space gives the grinding din of the mutated kick even more weight as it weaves through the mix.  As it moves from the raging 909 kicks to an edgy, synthesized paranoia, “Concussive” lives up to its name as it slams violently inside your head, assaulting your eardrums with a violent love.  “Love that Taint” is a tribute to the gabba viciousness that dominated the works of the Drop Bass Network throughout the 90s, pulling from the classic hard-core techno of Lenny Dee and Delta 9 as well as Ministry and Einsturzende Neubauten.  But then “MMM Papscraper I Love You” forces its way in, grabbing your ears with a punishing grit.  Flavors of old-school Aphex Twin inform this mix, as a woman asks about her uterus in between refrains of “psycho-sexual.”  The raw, raucous production throughout is engaging and fucking hardcore, constantly taking you someplace evil and completely inviting.     

Ctrlshft finishes the disc off with a pair of remixes that pull and push at the original tracks, forcing them to reform the groove.  His mix of Endif’s “Ashes” builds the tempo into a drum ‘n’ bass framework, making it an accessible and intelligent retooling of the original.  The slinky bass line and manic breakdown build this tune into a powerhouse mix that haunts and grooves at the same time.  When he moves into Caustic’s “Papscraper” remix, the flavor of Aphex Twin’s “Didgeridoo” becomes focused within the first few seconds.  This is a tune fans of classic techno will love and it’s a fantastic closer to a darkly dynamic disc.  Each producer works with the others, demonstrating a community effort and a mutual respect that is so often absent from mainstream musical offerings.  Each of these artists is bound to the grooves of the others, fostering a camaraderie that is felt throughout, creating an alliance between musical minds obsessed with scaring you shitless as you dance the night away.


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