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Reviewed this week
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Paragon isn't messing around on this one. Not that he's messed around on anything he's done on other labels such as 31 and Samurai. With its immense textures and sheet metal elements, "Normal People" is likely to scare most of its namesake, and is not to be treated lightly in any way! "Lowest Common Denominator" is slightly more conventional thank its synapse-snapping sub/step dynamic while "Ugly" is very much groove focussed; a paranoid riff swings back and forth over a mechanical, thunderous halfstep developing momentum with every spooked out pads and riser. Deeply dark, wholly original and genuinely forward thinking. You won't feel normal for a while after hearing these.
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The wolf and caps lock loving pair known simply as OAKE make a welcome return to Downwards, complementing their stunning debut from earlier this year with a four track EP that is, if anything, even heavier going! Quite where Karl O'Connor found OAKE isn't clear but the Berlin pair fit right in on the current configuration of Downwards alongside the likes of Cut Hands, Kerridge, DVA Damas et al. Whereas OAKE's three track debut Offenbarung was finely balanced between cinematic strings and vocals reminiscent of Coil and a pin-dropping bass-heavy dread shared with kindred spirits Demdike Stare and The Haxan Cloak, Vollstreckung is resolutely darker in execution. See, for example, the serating bass tones of "Sehtohree Diin Chromtas Vehns" and the cacophonous drums of "Tuturden Giit Chreteen Dwe" that both drowning out the more delicate vocals.
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Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker make a swift return to the Testpressing series with a sixth installment arriving just a month after the excellent TP#5. The superbly titled "40 Years Under The Cosh" finds the Demdike pair wedged in the punishing crawlspace between detroit techno and vintage grime for six thrilling mind bending minutes, with the track gradually falling apart at the seams as the middle of the track draws close. Fans of both Pharrell Williams and Demdike Stare (there must be one or two) will probably express disappointment that "Frontin" isn't a cover of the big hatted fella's noughties hit; instead it's a brutal exercise in lurching industrial wave that will fry the brain cells of unsuspecting individuals.
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After previously turning out a release for Opal Tapes, Traag makes a return to Gang of Ducks following last year's White Wall EP 7" with further forays into freaky industrial tinged sonics replete with apocalyptic vocals and a rough n' ready production finish. "Tropical Fruit" is something of a lead track with its metallic drum hits, hooky bassline and doom-laden speech about "experience", while "Successful Soldier" dissolves itself into a slow-lurching tribute to Throbbing Gristle in all their live un-glory. There's a touch more funk trying to reach its way into "Rubber Doll", although the grotty production finish still wins out in the end. At every turn the mood is bleak and distorted, and it sounds absolutely marvelous for it.
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Opal Tapes head to the Mid West for their second vinyl release of the week, welcoming Travis Galloway back into the fold for a crumbling mass of techno explorations under his Siobhan alias. Galloway first appeared on Opal Tapes back in 2012 with a tape under the Traag name, a project that's also surfaced on the similarly minded Gang Of Ducks, but Siobhan is his more prolific creative concern. Indeed, Southgate is his sixth Siobhan LP in four years. Some six tracks deep, Southgate takes its name from the Michigan district and applies murky industrial textures to the rhythmic backbones of techno and electro with some hellish vocals to boot.