Mark Stewart

Control Data

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Six years after his album Metatron, Mark Stewart resurfaced with Control Data. During that hiatus, some of the styles and sounds that had been central to Stewart's experiments since the early '80s had become commonplace in highly marketable mainstream rock and pop. Assisted by several familiar co-conspirators -- including producer Adrian Sherwood and Sugar Hill veterans Doug Wimbish and Skip McDonald -- the former Pop Group vocalist picks up where Metatron left off, delivering radical left-wing rhetoric set to a dub-heavy hybrid of techno-funk and industrially processed electronic menace. Of course, there's long been a schizophrenic dimension to Stewart's work; his albums have occasionally featured less fraught dance grooves alongside the abrasive, noise-mongering cutups. Both tendencies are well represented on Control Data. Stewart takes a more expansive approach to dub on slower numbers like "Scorpio," "Dream Kitchen," and the pulsing "Red Zone" but, while some of these tracks may be downbeat and melodic, he hasn't softened with age. He continues to hector listeners with his trademark spoken-sung pronouncements on surveillance, oppression, dystopian technocracy, the eclipse of politics by economics, and so forth. His distorted, through-a-bullhorn vocals become more menacing with heavyweight material like "Consumed" -- which summons up the ghost of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" -- and "Digital Justice." On these tracks, Stewart ratchets up the bpm, creating a confrontational, assaultive sound very much in the spirit of Digital Hardcore's pneumatic drill aesthetic. Indeed, Stewart would call upon Alec Empire to do violence to "Consumed" for 1998's Consumed: The Remix Wars. Although Control Data rehashes many of Stewart's familiar ideas and sonic strategies, noise and dissidence never go out of fashion -- particularly when they're done in a way that makes younger politically committed artists seem like coffeehouse liberals.

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