The Mutation Engine

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Few albums in the electronic genres have been both challenging and entertaining at the same time. Often when an album is quite wild and uncompromising, it is because it is filled with harsh noise, disjointed beats, and other things that are respectable, but not always listenable. But that is not the case with Neutronic, whose sound experiments are actually worthwhile past an initial listen. The dancefloor-ready efforts of previous releases are left behind on this album, replaced by a post-Autechre minimalism that betrays the sonic blasts pasted over the top. There is a definite industrial influence felt here, like vintage Whitehouse or Sleep Chamber's noisier material. The deafening pound of "Mutagen" continually blasts the listener over the head with Skinny Puppy-style distorted samples, filthy keyboards, and a beat that worms its way deep inside the brain before trying to tear out. But strangely enough it really works, feeling much more adventurous than 1999's Neutronic Vs. Planet Earth without sacrificing the thick beats and muffled sounds that made the previous efforts so enjoyable. There are moments where the music sounds like wires being rubbed together, moments where the distant scraping of metal can barely be heard behind the stuttering beats. These are the most beautiful parts of the disc; these are not so much songs as a structure of post-apocalyptic ambience. One of the only real complaints to be had about the album is the opening, which is one of the least engaging album openings to grace a techno release this good in a while. There is simply too much noise and waiting. Neutronic refuses to show what they are capable about until later, making it harder to really get into the album. Also, despite repeated listens there are not many beats that reveal a stronger overall rhythm behind them à la Aphex Twin. That is one of the true beauties of this kind of experimental electronic music, when the stuttering and skipping manage to stay in rhythm with an unheard beat. "Foray Into the Preserve" manages to achieve this in part, but there is an audible pounding in the background that guides the track. This is otherwise a great experimental album that helps this genre move forward during a rather transitional time for electronica in general.

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