It’s all too easy to pigeonhole artists in a particular style, especially when the first encounter is so memorable. So, since first hearing makesnd cassette, I’ve considered Mark Fell a producer of dubby techno cut from a superior cloth, and that’s about it. However, Fell’s done a lot more than release an album every year or so (either solo or half of SND), and has been delving deeply into the world of contemporary art and sound installations, which has brought numerous new dimensions to his music. It’s certainly resulted in Fell’s choice of album title changing, so the man who once utilised his abbreviation skills when naming an album Stdio released Periodic Orbits of a Dynamic System Related to a Knot last year and now presents the record before us which delights in the title Sentielle Objectif Actualité.
There’s a definite whiff of pretension pervading the atmosphere at this junction, so let’s just clear one thing up: Fell might wrap his creations in more hifalutin nomenclature nowadays but he keeps the music here stripped down and simple: it’s essentially off-kilter minimal techno. SOA-1 to 7 are exercises in what can be done with a kick drum, a hihat, handclaps and a few synthy whooshes and the result is almost hypnotic in practice. It’s constantly re-inventing itself as it goes, to the point of disassembling itself at the end of “SOA-4”, and the subtlest addition, like the percussive bells in “SOA-5”, makes a huge different to the sound and shape of the composition. The Editions Mego site goes to forensic levels of detail explaining the sounds Fell uses; like a good chef, he takes simple ingredients and whips them up into not merely one dish, but seven, all subtly different from the next.
There’s also a section on the Mego page which outlines the bpm and patterns of the music, should a DJ ever wish to mix a track from SOA into a set he’s playing. I can’t see many techno DJs bold enough to spin most of these tracks, as the rhythms don’t really make for a flowing set and a happy dancefloor, but segments of SOA will undoubtedly turn up on mixes designed for home listening in which case it’s hard to imagine them not catching the attention. Mark Fell may increasingly spend time on his ‘Artistic Practice’ (as it’s described on his website), but that first impression of him is proving hard to shake off: this is indeed dubby techno cut from a superior cloth.