The Black Dog: Liber Dogma
Soma Records

Liber Dogma presents thirteen tracks as a seamless, hour-long mix that's intended to reflect a typical live set by The Black Dog, and its clear-headed focus on dark techno is very much in keeping with the hypnotic and obsessive vibe of a club set. As is well known, The Black Dog once featured Ken Downie, Ed Handley, and Andy Turner but, with the latter two having departed long ago to form Plaid, the group now finds Downie joined by Dust Science Recording associates Martin Dust and Richard Dust.

It takes about ten minutes for the album to truly kick into gear, but when the bass undertow appears as an accompaniment to invasive insect buzzing and martial percussive thrust in “Drop Kick Kali,” Liber Dogma feels like it's settling in nicely. Two tracks later, the disc hits its stride when the group rolls out the aggressive techno of “Black Maria” and “Single Light Focus,” the latter as single-minded in its unwavering concentration on driving techno as its title suggests. That doesn't mean there isn't room for contrast on Liber Dogma: a smidgen of IDM (and acid, too) sneaks its way into “Hype Knot 7,” and “Feeder Rub Out” provides an interlude of relative calm before the viral thump of the set-enders “Worship: The Drum” and “Car Crash Magick” appear.

But on the whole, the group's approach is less a rave-styled assault but instead something closer in spirit to the title of the opening track, “Dark Wave Creeping”—cooler and more controlled than the club norm, in other words. That makes for an at times curious discordance between the out-of-control euphoria one associates with an actual live experience and the generally subdued attack that extends throughout Liber Dogma. While the roiling “Bird Siren” works itself into a suitably dark lather, one expects that a track such as “Silent Escape,” for example, would verge on detonation when delivered live, but on disc the cut more simmers than explodes. Even so, there's no denying the music's polish nor the finesse with which the group delivers it.

December 2011