Once again, an album cover helps to draw us into the record. Frédéric Fontenoy’s eerily manipulated art is as alien as the industrial music it advertises. While we’ve seen the stretched image technique used in videos by Hiroshi Kondo and Mukai Jumpei, this is the first time we’ve seen it showcased on an album. If one thinks of Autechre and Aphex Twin, all the better, as the work of Keju Luo (Broken Thoughts) honors their output, while crediting Hecq and Ulver as additional influences.
Realign offers something old and something new: a “realignment” of material collected over the past two years. Sculpting these fragments into new shapes, Luo bends and twists, wrings and ties. Glass breaks, static hisses, bass rumbles. All of this occurs within a lattice of beats. This is music for dark moods, menacing yet intelligent: the worst kind of threat. One imagines an artificial intelligence realizing its potential: Ex Machina‘s Ava set loose upon the world. In “losslessness”, the conflict becomes overt: the human, represented by the piano, set against the machine, represented by the beeps. One side represents warmth, the other, cold calculation.
The further one goes into the set, the more the organic becomes subservient to the inorganic. Water gurgles in “douglas firs”, a track whose title may remind some of Christmas; but after these trees are watered, they turn metallic and sharp like Warlock of the New Mutants. Underneath the metal, there’s still a heart, but cowed. “Richard Harrow” pushes the idea even further. The title recalls the disfigured character from Boardwalk Empire who wears a tin mask to hide his scars. The tone of the track implies beauty in ugliness, or perhaps the beauty of ugliness: the strange nobility of the misshapen. This has always been the appeal of industrial music: the implication that the discarded refuse, the dregs of the earth, have a home. Broken Thoughts carries its moniker to a natural conclusion, with broken beats and broken samples. The closing piece, “things kept falling”, copies the percussive error of a glitchy CD-R, melding its tempo to cool, clean, mechanical buzzes. The finale’s melodic theme suggests that things might someday be different, but for now, we are meant to live in a fractured world, to pursue beauty through its glitches rather than attempting to escape them. (Richard Allen)