The UK producer’s new album is a symbiosis between late-night clubbing and abrasive basement shows that owes as much to UK dance as to power electronics, says Daniel Jones.
Before the age of 19, I’d never stepped foot in a club. ‘House’ and ‘techno’ were dirty words to me, and ‘garage’ was always used to mean ‘rock’. Labels like Some Bizarre and Industrial Records were my guides to the anatomy of electronic music. The recent push that techno has retaken toward harsher sounds (and vice-versa) has been interesting to watch, but the results are often dance-focused, skewing away from the realms of straight-up noise—which makes Ali Wells’ work as Perc so vital. His latest label Submit, launched in the fall of 2013, has already released reinterpretations of early Einstürzende Neubauten tracks and a compilation of raw DIY electronics by like-minded yet diverse freaks including Pete Swanson, Burial Hex and Mincemeat or Tenspeed. As a look at some of the freshest names in the current noise scene, it’s as worthwhile a collection as any offered by those previously mentioned OG experimental labels. His latest LP The Power and The Glory would have likely been too abstract for the pop-leaning industrial parties of my early days, yet to my ears it’s the perfect symbiosis between the worlds of late-night clubbing and abrasive basement shows.
There’s a sort of freedom to The Power and The Glory that makes it feel as though Wells wanted to explore as many different paths as possible here. Brutalist walls of noise collide with icy synths, indecipherable vocals scream out from the void (Nik Void of Factory Floor, actually), and static and broken toys sputter to life beneath shuffling 2step hi-hats, hardcore bass and house stabs. Yet there’s always a sense of order about; Wells isn’t fucking around. As wide as that feeling of exploration is, it’s never loose. Album midpoint “David & George” might echo with the influence of mutant glitchheads like Unicorn Hard-On and Nero’s Day at Disneyland, but everything here is very tightly composed.
Wells uses snippets of electronic genres like weapons—the hollow thud of “Speek”s drum machine evoking the entropic spaces of a recently-emptied club; the stark flatness that comes after the high on the hauntingly atmospheric “Horse Gum”. The tracklist is set up with a good ratio of ‘danceable-weird’ to ‘my Casio is possessed-weird’, and by the time “Take Your Body Off” began to stomp my ears to death as Dethscalator’s Dan Chandler shrieked, I felt almost as though I was at a live show. As someone who goes to far more band gigs than club nights, I feel like that’s an important distinction to make. Both have their own unique levels of power to them, and this record manages to capture some of that.
I’ve mentioned before that finding noise in dance music is what drew me to it, and in the same way that Dominick Fernow manipulates Prurient’s native language of self-loathing electronics into hypnotically ambient techno, Wells brings forth a hard-hitting assault of metallic evil that owes as much to UK dance as it does to power electronics. But it’s not just an aural aesthetic that matters—it’s about attitude as well. That aura of punk outsiderness, of DIY ethics and experimentation, feels as though it strongly informs Wells and his work. The Power and The Glory might be a techno record, but it doesn’t feel like one. It’s too fat, too dirty and complex. I’m not quite sure what it does feel like, except for a pretty damn exciting look at the future of underground dance music. One thing is for certain: it more than satisfies my desire for the beat as much as for the bedlam. ~
The Power and The Glory is out February 17th on Perc Trax.