Two new quality collections from the Germany-based Hymen imprint make good on its supposed “Technoid Noises for Collapsing People” credo. The releases by Displacer (Toronto-based Michael Morton) and Nebulo (Thomas Pujols) go beyond a base industrial-dark electronica template by weaving into their respective albums elements of ambient, dubstep, IDM, techno, and even click-hop.
Morton issued four recordings (three albums and an EP) on Tympanik Audio before Foundation, so it hardly surprises that traces of TA's dark electronica style surface on the latest release. Even so, Foundation presents itself as a multi-dimensional affair that extends the Displacer sound into multiple stylistic zones. Morton uses analog electronic equipment, samples, field recordings, and acoustic instruments to fashion the disc's fourteen concise set-pieces, none longer than five minutes and most in the four-minute ballpark. “The Waiting Place” is a good example of Morton's artistry. Animated by shotgun claps and percussive thrum, the evocative piece otherwise opts for melancholy moodscultping in its elegant synth washes. The heavier “Outland” also argues strongly on behalf of Morton's skills in its punchy blend of beat thrust and grime-laden synth melodies and textures. Synth-heavy too is “Red Sky,” which even exudes a light-hearted spirit in its jaunty rhythm track. The techno side of his music comes to the fore in “Firebug” in the swinging pulse accompanying the track's nocturnal scene-painting, while “We'll Watch It Burn” sees a funkier feel rising to the music's hallucinatory surface. The dark electronica dimension gets a workout in the set's more aggressive cuts, such as “Distress Call,” “Spare Parts,” and the understandably foreboding “Warbound,” whose punchy beats and throbbing bass lines hit hard. Along the way, a few beatless ambient vignettes (“Ghosts Part 1,” “Ghosts Part 2”) provide contemplative rest-stops. As if to emphasize that the album is more than a beat-based affair, Morton closes its with a beatless ambient setting, “Leviathan,” which includes contributions from Keef Baker and Mark Spybey on guitar and synthesizer, respectively.Cardiac, Pujols' latest Nebulo set for Hymen, is satisfying, too, albeit in a different way. Apparently Pujols, desiring a warmer and more organic sound, decided to retool his Nebulo project after completing his previous album, Artefact, and towards that end recorded one draft track every day during the summer of 2011, material that he then used as source material for the final ten-track recording. Experimental electronica might be the best general description for the album's sound, though Pujols, like Morton, threads different stylistic strands into the sometimes head-nodding mix, too. Pujols likewise mixes it up, for example, by offsetting the beat-driven pieces with the experimental soundscape “Mu” and delicate ambient outro “Icon.” The hypnotic “Asht” exemplifies the arresting sound world Pujol presents on the release. The track plays like a slowed-down lurch, such that its beats curdle and its claps (self-recorded, incidentally) spread out rather than pop. The glitch-laden “Arcadic” stands out for its fresh, downtempo flow, while the equally smeary “Smax” kicks up some serious dust in its bass-popping groove. Though there's much to be said for the tracks' atmospheric detail, it's the rhythm elements that are most ear-catching on the release, however. Pujols assembles snappy and distinctive beat patterns made up of clicks, snaps, and claps in tracks like “Quenz” and “Baïkal”; such pieces would still engage one's ears even if all of the additional textural and melodic elements were stripped away. A great deal of craft is evident in both releases, and the listener comes away from both Foundation and Cardiac impressed by their compositional quality and production polish.