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Mark Stewart (not to be confused with the post-punk firebrand of the same name) has been the victim of overreactions from both sides. The volume at which his supporters proclaimed the existence of genius-level work from the start -- in the producer's first 12" (Peace of Mind) and compilation appearances (on Leisure and New Town) on Ai -- was almost deafening to any follower of electro-techno. Many of those who became curious as a result were disappointed in what they heard, having expected wall-to-wall maverick brilliance, and wound up disregarding it all as pointless tripe. As you might be able to gauge from such polarized reactions, Stewart's productions are neither quite as wonderful nor as easily dismissible as you might've been led to believe. If you're of the opinion that Bambaataa, Model 500, Drexciya, and Skam-era Boards of Canada set the standards for their respective fields and feel that no one weaned on those records should bother doing anything slightly derivative, Stewart's first album won't be of much use to you. He breaks no new ground. Nor does he merely shovel around old ground. Like nearly every producer throughout the history of electronic music, he's a synthesist, subconsciously taking bits from here and touches from there to create his own personality. Can listeners fault him for this? Not at all, especially because the bulk of Neurofibro -- featuring half the tracks from the Peace of Mind and Section singles (the vinyl edition, however, swaps these tracks out for a trio of exclusives) -- contains inspired, taut, smartly crafted tracks. A few -- "Peace of Mind" and "Contact" in particular -- rank above everything else by a towering difference, and yet there are scant outright lapses during this lengthy album. Stewart moves through styles and moods with ease, soundtracking fearful coke-fueled getaways, cyborg-infested corridors, jacking warehouse parties, and tranquil moments from track to track. This is a producer who knows his past and can build on it without performing mere archeology.

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