Klute: Read Between The Lines
Commercial Suicide

Issued on his own Commercial Suicide imprint and four years on from his last full-length The Draft, Tom Withers' eighth Klute album finds him operating at an exceptionally high and healthy creative level. That the collection is so strong speaks well on his behalf, given how challenging it is for an artist to keep generating fresh and imaginative material within a particular genre over the course of a long career. Yet though Klute is associated with drum'n'bass, Read Between the Lines stretches out into a number of stylistic areas during its fifteen tracks. His primary objective for the project was to produce a set that would satisfy at loud and soft volumes, one that's “equal parts physical and mental,” and on that count he succeeds.

The one-time drummer (in the ‘80s skate-punk band The Stupids) recorded the material for Read Between the Lines at his PBJ Studio, with a SubPac sub bass simulator, computer, and a “Wessington Howarth Foundation grant for the incompetent” central to the production process, and though it's largely a solo affair, Withers did bring a few vocalists on board, among them Naomi Pryor and Stamina MC. Her cooing contribution surfaces in the delicate beatless intro, “Come to the End,” after which he takes his turn on “Lose My Way,” a high-rolling, bongos-inflected stormer whose feverish thrust is more representative of the release and Klute's sound in general.

There are some certifiably stunning productions in the group. Withers' gifts as a sound designer and arranger are well-accounted for in “You Won't Like It,” which alternates between radiant, electro-tinged episodes and darker, muscular parts where synth flourishes punctuate the racing, polyrhythmic groove like thunderbolts. In “Earth Spits Out the Living,” voice fragments and arcade bleeps emerge as part of a cyclonic swirl that's so startlingly fresh in design it suggests Aphex Twin in its heady prime.

There are surprises, too. With its bubbly pulse powered by claps and swishing hi-hats, “Accept Our Power” sees Klute tackling space-techno to convincing effect, while the aptly named “Clappy” shows him serving up an extra dish of bumping techno swing. In addition, “Psycho Subvert” and “The Power of the Light” have more to do with industrial techno and ambient, respectively, than anything breakbeats-related. Even seemingly straight-up drum'n'bass workouts like “Soul Boy” and “Angel Makers” include layers of atmospheric ambient detail that an inattentive listen might fail to notice. Throughout this wide-ranging collection, Withers invigorates the genre with all manner of textural detail and imaginative touches, resulting in a set capable of both satisfying longtime aficionados and providing a fine entry-point for new listeners.

March 2017