Outputmessage: Resurface

It's been two years since NY-born Bernard Emmanuel Farley gained justifiable acclaim for his debut Outputmessage album Nebulae . Apparently, he was disappointed to hear it labeled Intelligent Dance Music in some quarters (an association that likely came about due to Farley's instrumental focus on synthesizers and beats) but, in spite of whatever baggage IDM carries with it, some of the Resurface material could pass for a visionary re-imagining of the genre—“Ashes,” for example, with its arrangement of sharp percussive lashes and seizure-gripped electro convulsions, and “Resurface,” too, whose heavy percussive tumble and epic electronic squeal invites comparison to Autechre at its most innovative.

Regardless, the IDM label tripped Farley up when he set forth on following up the debut with new material. Though he agonized over the quality of the nearly one hundred songs he'd started and reeled under self-imposed pressures and job-related stress (teaching inner city kids in Washington DC), he eventually pulled together an EP's worth of material that largely blazes with energy. Song titles that reference collapse and Phoenix-like resurrection acknowledge the difficult time he had giving birth to the EP. They're also typically single-word titles, as unfussy and to-the-point as the tracks themselves, all seven of which check in at less than four minutes each.

Starting a recording with a title like “Funeral” might seem a depressing move but it's in keeping with Farley's desire to clear the decks and start anew. Sure enough, the brief overture rises to a grandiose, sci-fi climax before retreating to allow “Lungs” to start the EP proper. Kicked along by a popping funk rhythm and subterranean bass tones, the tune strafes its bleached atmosphere with synth fire, and then shifts into galaxial overdrive halfway through. A breathless urgency drives “Rise” whose storming electro attack of synth showers and roaring beats is so intense it feels ready to explode. The intensity cools slightly in “Try Again” to allow listeners to catch their breath before the locomotive electro-blaze of “Washed” comes into view. No matter the label, Outputmessage's futuristic electro-funk goes down easily indeed.

August 2008