Bodycode: Immune
Spectral Sound

Immune, Alan Abrahams' sophomore Bodycode full-length, is often as dizzying as the resplendent harp swirls with which its opening track begins. As a rule, Abrahams' deeply syncopated dance music (issued under the Portable and Bodycode guises) is restless and ever-mutating in a manner that mirrors the life of the highly-regarded Background Records, ~scape, and Spectral Sound producer. Having grown up in post-Apartheid South Africa, Abrahams relocated for stints in Portugal and London before settling into his current home Berlin, from which the latest Bodycode venture arrives three years after The Conservation of Electric Charge. The tracks this time around are as feverish, uplifting, and club-ready as before, though Abrahams has tilted the music's direction away from the techno focus of the earlier release to a slightly more house-based style. That move is most strongly felt in “What Did You Say,” dominated by a repeating voice sample that helps make the track the album's most arresting. Acting as an anchor for the tune's acidy shuffle-boogie extemporizations, Lerato's female voice drawls, “How can you say you'd live without me? / How can you say you wanna leave me? / Our minds and bodies / Are all one,” with the “Are” mutated into a protracted slither.

The nine-minute opener “Meaning And Memory” packs so many Bodycode moves into a single cut the effect is almost overwhelming: multiple layers of dizzying harp swirls segue into a hard-hitting tech-house drum workout driven by acidy sub-bass thrust, followed by a tumultuous battleground of soft synth streams, careening voices, and hyper percussive patterns. So busy is the arrangement, one would be forgiven for missing the Theremin-styled warble dancing through the background. In some cases, the album doesn't deviate radically from to the style of Abrahams' past output. “Hyperlight” begins by stripping the Bodycode sound down to a slinky house pulse peppered by a barking vocal command (“Get up!”) and then builds it up progressively to a feverish tribal churn as the layers accumulate. He likewise anchors “I'll Hold Your Hand” in swinging rhythms that are equally indebted to African and house styles, while the flute sounds floating over the beats suggest the open plains of Abrahams' South African roots. Close in style and spirit to The Conservation of Electric Charge is “Imitation Lover” which couples Abrahams' baritone croon with squawking percussion sounds and irrepressibly buoyant house rhythms. The album detours into trippier territory towards its end with “Subspace Radio,” a track distinguished by shimmering chords and a dub bass line, and “Spacial Harmonics,” which features a small army of wooden flutes and natural percussion. At album's close, the title track turns the drum machine heat down a bit to allow wistful piano chords and the baritone chorus's “Nothing in this world is immune from change” to resonate loudly against percolating house rhythms.

Abrahams' music is always worth hearing, regardless of the alias in play, and Immune is no different in that regard. If there's a downside to the album, it's that the Bodycode sound hasn't changed all that dramatically since The Conservation of Electric Charge, given that some of Immune's tracks wouldn't sound out of place on the previous album—the new album is more a consolidation than a radical progression, in other words. Even so, there's no denying the potency of Abrahams' music and, as always, it's delivered with a confidence and assurance that makes it hard to resist.

July 2009