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Rewind some 15 years and I can clearly recall the original of ‘newtables’ landing in the record shop I was working in at the time. It distinctly stood out among the barrage of loopy Jeff Mills worshipping techno fodder that was happening at that time. Baby Ford / Ifach, Mika Vainio / Sahko and Robert Hood / M-Plant had already laid the foundations for a minimalist approach to techno production but Mat Steel and Mark Fell's SND had something quite different. This was at the dawn of phrases like Clicks + Cuts/ Glitch/ Micro House being applied to techno and house and the same time Thomas Brinkmann kicked off Max Ernst.
The combination of ‘newtables’ cold austere, precise mathematical rhythms sounded like the absolute sonification of mathematics and geography. The delicate combination of luxurious, silky housey pads was perfectly executed and sounded remarkably fresh at the time. The overall sound production across the tracks is immaculate and it’s this pristine quality that makes it feel like machine music but this clinical element has the warmth of human input saving things from sounding too artificial and mechanical.
A few tracks here still sound pretty fresh although some moments also sound very much of the time and don’t have as much impact years down the line. I guess that’s got a lot to do with having absorbed what’s happened since so I think it’s important to put this record in the context of the period if you’re a virgin to this work. It’s possible to detect the seeds of where Mark Fell would later shatter and reassemble rhythm with his solo output, as well as his long appreciation of pure house music which would later manifest in the Sensate focus material. Also this is quite possibly the first stuff I can think of where Sound Art principles were being applied to house and techno, the whole aesthetic a stark contrast to the psychedelic rave culture from which it was in many ways born.
Remastered from the original DAT’s it’s been a pleasure to revisit these tracks having not heard them in a long while. Plus the real reissue gravy is the inclusion of the previously unreleased stomper B2.
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