Mired in a miasma of fog, submerged rumbles contort to rise through jagged cracks in the industrial concrete. The trunks of passing trucks shake rattle-rattle with subwoof swells that cause arm hairs to stand at full attention. A palette of gray haze glazes the district over with an artificial sheen of Saran-wrapped grit. The digital junkyard awaits its daily shipment of crashed hard drives and cracked circuit boards: a reliquary of forgotten technology. Tethered telephone lines conduct melodies in the thick hum of electric air. Somewhere, off in the distance, a jackhammer jots encrypted notes as notches in rock. Welcome to Hazyville.
A muffled diva croons an indecipherable hook that resembles the word “Pecans” on the opener, “Again The Addiction.” From the jump, warbling underwater TurboGrafx tones suck you into their vortex with Freestyle vocal sputters and shuffling hi-hat stutters. A cold distance emanates as the track slowly thaws. Spastic, manic, and paranoid, it scores virtual reality high-speed chases through slick streets, blurred data racing past. “Ivy May Gilpin” comes equipped with the sway of a digitized rainforest, 808 congas tapping under echoing bird chirps, and slow-growing synth moss. If not for its adrenaline-paced rhythm, it might lull to relaxation, but as percussive layers mount, the tension rises toward the tree canopy. “Mincin” is a scraping metal-on-metal throbber that wears down ears like grating gears of a bulldozer. Both nervous and stirring, it rewards those who can escape unscathed by its jarringly rough edges.
This is the music playing at hovercraft assembly lines and robot weddings; mechanized emotion, carefully constructed by the human hand.
People call this dub-step. People call this Detroit. People call this wonky. Darren J. Cunningham, a.k.a. Actress, calls this Werk. His imprint, born out of a Bristol Hyperdub monthly, has provided Cunningham the forum to foster some of the finest forward-thinking, beat-driven movements out of the UK, with a roster that reps Lukid, Radioclit, and Disrupt. Some four years in the making, the fervently awaited Actress long-player dropped hot on the heels of the radical Zomby release, Where Were U In ’92? While Zomby garnered Werk Discs their deserved propers from everyone and their glowstick-laden candy-raver moms, Actress barely blipped beyond the cliquish Boomkat radar. Not quite a full-blown felony, but at least a petty crime, as Hazyville is easily one of last year’s most slept-on electronic releases. Perhaps this U.S. release will change that.
1. Again The Addiction
4. Ivy May Gilpin
5. I Can’t Forgive You
7. Redit 124
11. Green Gal