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- Bitter Music by Perc
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On his third album ‘Bitter Music’, Ali wells has further expanded his sound palette beyond the tried and tested techno caboodle. And no, he’s not switched over to a wall of synth modules and plastic coated copper spaghetti. Apparently he gathered sounds from a studio outside Manchester, which from what I can gather, collects and restores old gear that was previously used by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. He also plays piano, has flute played by Ian East and vocals including a collaboration with Gazelle Twin. But don’t be mislead by those ingredients - this is still unmistakably a Perc record that retains the character and energy of his sound while displaying a wider scope that’s both DJ/club compatible. It simultaneously has appeal for heads that dig old industrial music as well as avant garde / electro-acoustic music. Basically this isn’t your ten a penny industrial techno record, but at it’s core is undoubtedly techno. He’s created an album that swerves the dreaded curse of the techno album in that it’s functional beyond the dancefloor as a fully formed, well executed album that rewards in its entirety but is equally as useful if a DJ wanted to just pull out the odd pounder.
Opening cut ‘Exit’ is like some colossal iron man in distress, with robo-vocal over distant human conversation and ghostly synth trails - the feel both futuristic and ancient - as though we’ve discovered something in a buried time capsule. ‘Unelected’ eludes to the political concerns of the record as though we’re galloping, propelled by rusty kick drums at fast pace towards an uncertain future, dodging perilous obstacles. The eerie echo chamber reverberations of ‘Wax Apple’ kinda recalls very early Cabaret Voltaire’s tape music, while the nervous, discordant piano is reminiscent of something you’d find on some of the darker musique concrete coming out of France in the 50’s. The tension filled intro of ‘Chatter’ makes way for chunky war drums and the beautiful, expertly deployed, weeping flute of Ian East. ‘I Just Can’t Win’ brilliantly relays a sense of frustration with its bleak soundscape and looping vocal “Why do you stick the things on? Why don’t you paint them? And when I do paint them, they say, why did you bother to paint them, why didn’t you just stick them on”. That one’s provided a chuckle or two. ‘Spit’ provides the album’s most nightmarish moment - with claustrophobic electronics, relentless kicks and tortured screams, while ‘Rat Run’ is infected by blasts of festering noise. ‘Look What Your Love Has Done To Me’ is an uneasy, dungeon techno slammer where love turns sour. The record closes with ‘After Ball’, a dense concoction of coruscating, churning noise and angelic, ethereal organ that comes off like a battle of opposing forces; good vs evil.
At the risk of sounding patronising, this really feels like Perc’s most mature and nuanced work to date. There’s a lot beneath the surface of ‘Bitter Music’, both sonically and conceptually. This is gradually revealed through repeated listens, and makes it an album of real substance that stands out amongst the flood of ultimately disposable techno fodder.
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