John Heckle: Desolate Figures
Tabernacle Records

That John Heckle's music has been issued on Jamal Moss's Mathematics Recordings proves to be especially relevant when it comes to describing Heckle's second album Desolate Figures. Why? Because the nine-track collection exemplifies many of the characteristics associated with Moss's own Hieroglyphic Being output as well as the Mathematics Recordings imprint in general. Heckle's tracks evidence a similar kind of focus on dizzying house-based rhythms and constant mutation that one encounters in Moss's own productions. In a typical Desolate Figures cut, cymbals and hi-hats stoke furious polyrhythmic dialogues while serpentine synth and emotive string patterns bring high-pitched drama to the proceedings. In addition, thumping kick drums and hammering snares lay unwavering foundations within relentlessly churning tracks that sometimes morph into raw acid-techno throwdowns.

Moss, it turns out, has been a key presence in Heckle's life. Apparently, his passion for production was rekindled in 2009 by the Mathematics label and in particular Moss's music, which Heckle happened to experience live during a Belgium visit. Soon thereafter, he began releasing music on the label, beginning with 2010's Life On Titan EP (for which he received a 2012 Qwartz Electronic Music Award in Paris) and followed by a string of releases, including the two-part Second Son album. (For the record, Heckle also has released music on Tabernacle, Crème Organization, and Signals).

As much as it might be indebted to the Mathematics sound, Desolate Figures is no one-trick pony, as multiple other paths are traversed along the way. Elements of Chicago house and Detroit techno seep into the infectiously swinging “Inhuman Nature,” for instance, while the heavy-hitting “Frankenstein's Sweet Nectar” pounds determinedly like a behemoth intent on destruction. Traces of jazz are never far from the surface in a typical Heckle track, as evidenced by the free-flowing “Love-Lies” and “Something For Your Distorted Mind,” where jazzy electric piano solos roar alongside swinging techno-house rhythm backings; such tracks play like some imaginary Carl Craig-Hieroglyphic Being collaboration. Fast and furious, Heckle's kinetic music is heady stuff, to be sure. One comes away from the material dizzied by the experience yet won over by the level of musical invention and craft displayed on the fifty-five-minute set.

November 2013