Akkord HTH035

[Houndstooth; 2015]

Styles: darkside continuum, ambient techstep, meta-bass
Others: Roly Porter, Kangding Ray, Andy Stott, Demdike Stare

.”..these were ravers who had perversely come to enjoy bad trips and weird vibes. Why? Perhaps because, rather than adjust to normality, it seemed preferable to stick to rave’s ‘living dream’ even when it had turned to nightmare. Perhaps because any kind of intensity is better than feeling numb.”
– Simon Reynolds, Energy Flash

Before Akkord, Manchester duo Indigo and Synkro were frequent collaborators on eponymous double-bills for UK bass cult soundhouses like Exit Records and the now (sadly) dormant Smokin’ Sessions imprint. Tracks like Indigo’s “Sunrise” and Synkro’s “Why Don’t You,” both from 2012, are good examples of their mature solo work, each incorporating the melodic depth of A Mutual Antipathy-era Scuba, Burial’s morning-after poetics, and Fracture’s gear-shift grooves into something like a shared synthesis. This is an ocean away from the halfstep orthodoxy of their early stuff, a glitch on the horizon where the percussive spasms of slow/fast drum & bass and the sonorous throb of dub techno become hard to distinguish. In this context, their collaboration as Akkord represents a return to the faceless aggression of their dungeon soundsystem roots with a refined sense of purpose and ambition. Akkord: the name itself suggests authority, alliance, ‘ardkore.

HTH035 collects four parallel velocity remixes alongside their original versions, which appeared on last year’s HTH020 12-inch EP. “Grayscale,” “Typeface” — the track titles alone disclose a claustrophobic formalism. “Gravure,” either model or process, refers to the reproduction of images and the allure of the hidden. The tune itself features log drums and windchimes whispering together beneath a grainy, distorted sound bed, Juno hoover pitchbent to a slither. “Continuum” might just be on the nose: its time-stretched Amens explicitly connecting it with Reynolds’s history of the hardcore continuum. If the brooding moods and throstled textures of Andy Stott’s desolation jams, refined and refiltered, are fuel for Akkord’s darkness engine, then “Greyscale” peels back the chassis, exposing the ear to the muddy whirring of its cranks and pistons. A sound that’s all smashed windows and crumbling walls, damp ceilings and dank corridors; a raver’s bucolic dream of escape disturbed by smoke, dust, and the sound of someone screaming.

The cast list of remixers is both conservative and faithful — Regis, Fis, Vatican Shadow, The Haxan Cloak. Akkord’s sonic coherence is never challenged, but reinforced in different ways. In the case of Vatican Shadow’s “(The World Is Complete Mix)” of “Typeface” and “Greyscale,” this means a blurring of focus, unexpected smears of light, muffled kicks cut from the same ethereal cloth as Aphex Twin’s “Tha.” Fis mangles “Gravure” around a distorted “Continuum,” while The Haxan Cloak takes things in the opposite direction, stripping HTH020 down to its component parts and casting them into the furnace. His 10-minute “(Cloud Of Witness Mix)” is really an “Akkord Suite,” a megamix that strobes through graveyard ambience, industrial dancehall, and orchestral noise. The Regis remix remains stuck in first gear, its drama slow and suspenseful.

The outsourced remix is, by definition, extracurricular: it always comes with a caveat, its ownership is partial. By this conventional measure, the second half of HTH035, all remixes, at least succeeds in teasing out new resonances from the first, introducing fresh details and new shades. Nobody misses the point, but nobody stands out — the quality is even throughout. Even taking into account The Haxan Cloak’s sprawling megamix, there is an uncanny sense that the remixes on offer are neither more nor less than the sum of their parts. In that sense, a coherent remix package like this one illustrates the value of finesse and of like-minded mercenaries. Their sound might be rooted in darkside rave’s dystopian visions of catastrophe and collapse, but Akkord make solid structures, built to last.

Links: Akkord - Houndstooth

Most Read