Electronic music is meant to provide a release from the real world, but Medium, the latest missive by UK producer Emptyset, will bring anyone who hears it crashing back to the earth. There’s a desperate malevolence at play on this work, a sonic accompaniment to the end-of-days desolation so vividly narrated on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The key difference however, is that while that novel provided no alternatives and seemed to revel in its nihilistic approach, this album offers an escape from the drab sameness and conservatism inherent in modern day techno.
Ironically though, Emptyset’s approach does make nods to narratives from the past, taking influence from the tortured industrial noise of Throbbing Gristle, the eerie ambience of Regis and minimal techno at its most reductionist. On “Interstice”, this latter trait manifests itself as dead paced beats and frost percussion disappear into nothingness only to re-appear a few seconds later. On “Other”, Emptyset does more to reintroduce the spirit of industrial to contemporary electronic music than a shelf full of situationist techno releases; murderous sub-bass stabs provide the focus, but on the sidelines eerie soundscapes and textures are unfolding, accompanied by skittish percussion.
“Mirror” meanwhile sees waves of white noise and static interference and a rave siren build over doubled-up death pace beats. These are the closest references to structured electronic music. “Divide” delivers a tapestry of detached sounds while on “Medium” itself, Emptyset wallows in menacing bass licks with background noise seething beneath the surface. This is music that matches the unparalleled dark age we are living through, and just this once, the Medium really is the message.