Planetary Assault Systems: The Messenger
Ostgut Ton

With The Messenger, Luke Slater brings us another collection of relentless and indomitable machine-techno in the follow-up to his 2009 Planetary Assault Systems release Temporary Suspension, also issued by the Berlin-based Ostgut Ton label. Though the new album perpetuates the visionary, future-techno sound of its predecessor, the Planetary Assault Systems project has been in operation for almost two decades, with Planetary Funk Vol I, the first recording under the name, having appeared in 1993 on Peacefrog Records. The style is cold, precision-tooled techno, and one could be forgiven for hearing echoes of classic Detroit techno and the work of someone like Jeff Mills in the album's dozen tracks.

Claps, hi-hats, and kick drums give the tracks locomotive propulsion, while simple, repetitive keyboard patterns account for the stripped-down melodic dimension. So though “Railer (Further Exploration)” might glide in on a wave of symphonic sweep, its percussive dimension is already heard gathering force in the background. Even so, that lulling opener emphasizes the more ethereal side of the Planetary Assault Systems equation when compared to the intense throwdowns that follow. Like many of the album tracks, “Bell Blocker” churns with unwavering and single-minded determination in rolling out nearly eight steamrolling minutes of pounding bass drums, throbbing bass lines, and clangorous melodic figures. Here and elsewhere, Slater avoids repetition by having elements repeatedly advance and recede in the mix, and, in this instance, the beats drop out during one episode before slamming back in with seemingly even greater fury. “Rip the Cut” is especially relentless, a thunderous dancefloor burner that's positively primal in its focus on raw rhythmic intensity.

Despite working within a strict template, Slater retains listening interest by changing things up in subtle ways from one track to the next. The dizzying vocal and instrumental loops roaring through “Wriss,” for example, are as much reminiscent of trance and house as techno per se; the dizzying “Kray Squid,” on the other hand, pulsates with high energy as it strides through a thick sludge of crackle and is so densely packed the little Latin rhythm beating at its core becomes almost inaudible. Slater leavens the tension during the spacey beatless interlude “Movement 12,” but generally speaking The Messenger finds the producer staying true to the project's essence in keeping his metal machine music muscular, oft-ferocious, and pure. Don't exit early either, as the album's most aggressive moment arrives at the close when Slater cranks the riotous club techno of “Black Tea” to a near-psychotropic pitch.

November 2011