Killah brukbeat and swing techno functions from Spatial on his resuscitated Infrasonics imprint. 5 years since leaving his label on ice with a CD round-up of their first four releases, Infra12006 marks its return with signature, minimalist efficiency and dancefloor insistence. With ‘HeLa’ he syncs pendulous kicks and scything chords in möbius loop twysts occurring somewhere between the oblique swing of Phork and the latinate shuffles of El-B at his slinkiest. In ‘Referent’ he tests out a more crack’d sorta bruk funk nodding to A Made Up Sound’s earlier, ruder transmissions, but also with a squashed, in-the-pocket London funk that’s tuff to fake.
London’s Spatial likes to back up his playful UK techno with big ideas—just look at this year’s sprawling “opti-sonic” project, Primitives. In the same spirit, a URL on the centre label of his latest record takes you to a generative artwork inspired by John Conway’s Game Of Life. Its erratic, blossoming shapes mimic the way cells reproduce; the point is to illustrate “the process of Emergence, by which complex patterns arise from interactions between simple elements.” These two tracks, the first in the three-part Emergence series on Spatial’s own Infrasonics label, reflect this idea perfectly. The producer’s hybrid music, which balances UK garage’s sugary hooks with techno’s raw muscle, has rarely sounded so simple and direct—yet it’s also more fluid than ever.
“HeLa” centres on the deft sparring match between its sledgehammer kicks and viscous synth chords. The odd barrage of claps evokes Kowton’s grime-like constructions, but in Spatial’s hands, the results are hypnotic rather than brutal. “Referent” works with near-identical elements, but it’s more fractured, its groove constantly teetering on the edge of collapse. Spatial holds his nerve, though, and constructs something borderline delirious before pulling it apart in the breakdown.
Perfectly physical opener “HeLa” is the one here: elastic, long-legged beats brush up with elegantly smeared synths to create a perfectly swelling groove that sweeps you up from the start. Every surface is buffed and metallic, which lends the whole thing a certain sense of crisp futurism—but pricks of 303 and more pixelated chords rough things up later on, reminding us that Spatial can do the minutiae as well as he can do the muscle. That is even more obvious on flip-side effort “Referent.” Here, the synths are more like twisted stabs than graceful smears, as they cut in and out next to claps full of attack and above loose broken beats. Rising, falling, and threatening to collapse at any moment, barely-there sirens and spaceship reverb add depth and character to what is a zoned-out and brilliantly intergalactic affair. Spatial and his space-bass sounds, then, still offer lots to love.
…Spatial has undoubtedly picked up some sonic heft that lends a certain presence to the tracks. “HeLa” has a kick that positively bursts gut-first out of the arrangement, and not at the expense of the dexterity of the track. The melodic flourishes too move with a certain confidence that was perhaps muted in the early tracks, as plush Detroit chords nip in and out with a teasing control that adds a great deal to the groove. Indeed at times the techno in Spatial’s sound is perhaps more evident, but it acts like an assured glue that lodges the track firmly in front of your face where the others dealt in more subtle ways.