Sutekh: Incest (Live)
Seth Joshua Horvitz has released distinctive electronic music under his Sutekh moniker since 1997 on labels like his own Context and Force Inc. (2000's Periods Make Sense). 20002 saw the release of two impressive yet vastly different full-lengths: Fell and Incest. Fell constantly surprises the listener as it veers off into novel tangents. Each track generates a different, unpredictable mood, from the cacophonous clattering of “Anatomy of a Splinter” to the whirring, panning funk of “Gospel Train.” “Privacy,” for example, features an electric piano accompanying what sounds like rustling pages as well as a hi-hat, cymbals, and rimshots. “Recession Clouds” begins with the processed drone of some faceless bureaucrat silenced by dissonant waves of feedback and then segues into a quintessential Sutekh house rhythm with all manner of detritus churning on top. The ominous, falling chords in “Wings Over Kansas” generate an unsettling, almost apocalyptic mood, which is offset by a final, hidden track that begins with an accordion but then shifts into piercing, oscillating tones. Horvitz wisely deflects monotony by eschewing the presence of a standard 4/4 groove on each track. Rather, he maintains interest throughout by deploying a huge arsenal of acoustic and synthetic sound sources to create meticulous compositions, as opposed to merely draping random effects and melodies upon beats. If there is one track that most representatively showcases Sutekh's signature sound—a funky minimal house style characterized by lightness and bounce—it would be “Fire Weather.” But this identifiable style shows up in only a few tracks, and, overall, Fell's meandering travelogue makes for an adventurous, rewarding journey.
Incest is presented as a continuous 43-minute workout that was assembled from several real-time studio sessions in Barcelona and San Francisco during June and July, 2002. Apparently Horvitz plundered his own catalogue of released and unreleased works for sound sourcing, as well as patches and noises from friends like Kit Clayton, Twerk, Geoff White, and Carsten Nicolai, to build the tracks. However, whatever elements may have appeared on former recordings have been transformed to a point of unrecognizability, making Incest sound completely original. Unlike Fell, the focus here is much more upon the dance floor, as the tracks pulsatingly and insistently ground themselves in funk grooves of tech- and micro-house. Yet his imaginative treatments give Incest a richness that makes it equally satisfying as headphones listening. Beginning with a calm prelude of whirring sounds and an insistent hi-hat, the momentary appearance of feedback and a lone electric guitar mutates into a typically dense collage of beats, electronic whirring, and tones that continues without interruption thenceforth. Horvitz constantly invigorates the connecting tracks by mutating their elements and re-assembling them in unexpected ways. Quieter moments intermittently appear but the overall mood is beat-driven. Horvitz enhances Incest's non-stop groove by adorning it with distinctive rhythmic transformations and characteristic glitch-like effects. Track five, for example, is an irresistible sampling of syncopated micro-house funk accented by crashing waves of digital noise.
Horvitz manages the notable feat of creating electronic music that is uniquely identifiable as his, in spite of the fact that these two releases differ so much. Fell is the more blatantly experimental of the two, yet Incest is experimental too in a less obvious way. In the latter, Horvitz positions himself firmly within a 'dance' context by maintaining a seamless groove throughout, in a manner similar to Richie Hawtin on his Decks EFX and 909 and Scion on Arrange and Process Basic Channel Tracks. What elevates Sutekh above other electronic artists is the fecundity of his imagination, his resourceful ability to infuse his tracks, groove-based or otherwise, with a distinctive compositional intelligence and command.