Karl O'Connor


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As one might expect, this collaboration between Karl O'Connor (better known as Regis) and Peter Sutton (better known as Female) results in a stunning summation of the Birmingham, England, techno sound associated with the Downwards label. This label, affiliated with Surgeon, practices a stomping and tribal application of industrial sounds: hard 909 drum kicks, dense layers of static-like ambience, clanking high-end rhythms, animalistic sirens. This template may seem dissonant and little more than aural ruckus, but, in fact, these producers manage to harmoniously merge the commotion into a merged whole that sounds more like a thumping blur than a ear-covering mess. In sum, this is straight-ahead dancefloor techno, the kind that makes you go insane with its driving rhythms and manic forward-movement. Many may wonder whether this sort of music functions well in CD format as something to listen to rather than dance to, and -- in a odd sort of way -- this music actually does function well as sonic wallpaper, primarily because of its locked-groove sound. The cycling loops at the heart of these songs develop quickly, hermetically merging together into a groove that seems in flux due to the constant manipulation and tweaking of particular sounds and loops, yet the lack of lulls or tangential digressions from the underlying rhythmic foundation results in an uncanny sort of aggressive ambience. In addition, the duo does incorporate short segments of traditional ambience -- free of percussive beats and other forceful sounds -- to bring a bit of juxtaposition and perspective to the album. This is a prototypical, textbook illustration of the Birmingham style that belongs on or at least near the same pedestal as Surgeon's monumental Force + Form album.

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