In case you’ve all been sleeping on this like I was, do yourself a favor and listen to this.
I stumbled across this release in the new arrivals at my local record shop a few months ago, and picked it up based on the strength of the PAN label. Turns out Concrete Fence is a new duo comprised of Russell Haswell (Gescom, Haswell & Hecker) and Downwards label founder Karl O’Connor (Regis.) Following the unfortunate demise of Karl O’Connor’s Sandwell District (Regis, Function, Silent Servant), he got together with Haswell, one of Britain’s top Noise and experimental electronic artists, for an improvised set at the 2012 Blackest Ever Black party in London’s Corsica Studios, which apparently teetered at the brink of falling apart but produced enough stunning moments to build hype for this release. As expected, New Release (1) shows the duo in top form, utilizing the studio to perfect their sound. If you are familiar with the work of Regis or Haswell, this collaboration occupies exactly the middle ground you’d want it too, and further underscores the considerable common ground between the fringes of the electronic music scene. Though make no mistake, it’s not just the latest tech-noise hybrid but carves out its own unique space.
Sandwell built its reputation on its post-punk aesthetic applied to straight ahead dance music, bucking trends and showing other collectives how it was to be done. Anchored by strong collaborative work between Regis and Function, the flawless mixes of Silent Servant helped cement the imprint in the consciousness of free minded techno fans. 12”s like Rrose’s “Waterfall” are certified club classics at this point, while records like Motormouth Variations with Bob Ostertag serve as proof that the collective was able to look beyond the dance floor. Part of what made that crew so strong was the tension between founding partners Regis and Function. (Check out this interview to get a sense of that magic.) To see Regis collaborating with Haswell seems appropriate given the current state of the electronic scene, as much sense as it did to scream “Peggy Sue” over Sleeparchive back in 2004.
I can’t think of a more appropriate label to release this debut collaboration bringing together industrial techno with Noise than PAN. Bill Kouligas’ label had a banner year in 2012, releasing over a dozen high quality records, and 2013 hasn’t seen Pan resting on its laurels. Kouligas has brought together a wide variety of artists, all with singular pursuit of their own sound yet somehow occupying a similar aesthetic space. Pan can have many meanings depending on the context. All. A god. Peter. The act of moving a sound in space. They all seem apt in this case and help put the roster into some context: Lee Gamble, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Helm, Heatsick, Rene Hell, Jarr Moff, Jason Lescalleet, John Wiese, Ben Vida, SND, and the list goes on. It’s safe to say that Kouligas keeps his finger on the pulse of the scene, keeping the Pan sound intelligible and an active voice in the social discourse that electronic music has always been rooted in. One foot in the club, one in the art gallery.
The record begins with an opening salvo of noise and feedback, the subtlest impression of a kick fighting its way to the surface, before the beat drops, a slow laid-back vibe with a dubstep inflected warbling low end and lurching pace. The aptly titled “Industrial Disease” gets right to the heart of the matter, quite open about its orientation. “Caulk” continues the submerged waves of rhythm plowing through clouds of noise, certainly not overtly techno but also without falling into Noise clichés. The B-Side length track “The Unabridged Truth” is mostly beatless, more ambient and emphasizing a drifting exploration of space, though always hard edged and unpredictable.
Pressed on beautiful white 140g vinyl mastered and cut by Rashad Becker (whose recent debut LP on PAN is one of the best electro-acoustic works of the year, perhaps the decade), the album comes in a clear silk screened pvc sleeve designed by Russel Haswell and label boss Bill Kouligas, as always, maintaining a unified aesthetic across the label. A promising debut from two of electronic music’s most consistent practitioners. (Joseph Sannicandro)