LA’s industrial-minded Errorgrid label launched in May, smack in the middle of the pandemic and an economic meltdown. In one sense, this was horrible timing, but in another, it’s just perfect. Billed as “a darker sound of a present future,” the label’s output attacks exclamation marks with more exclamation marks, allowing listeners to dance, cry, scream, and rage against the machine. Errorgrid’s ninth release is out today, but before we get to Tom Hall‘s Bestowed Order on Chaos, let’s listen to the previous eight.
First out the gate: Nundale‘s Staircases: A, which immediately draws comparison to classic Front 242 and Front Line Assembly. On “Cosimaa,” rapid beats are met with a pairing of abrasive and melodic electronics and a growing sense of urgency. It’s a great first impression, as the patterns continue to evolve throughout the piece: the mark of IDM. The production values are strong and the mastering is crisp: two facets that will become hallmarks of the label. The energetic “DisformaLL” takes a more melodic approach and has the running time of a single, while “Regress” slows the pace to a “mere” 130 BPM to court the dance floor. We credit label founder Olivier Egli for not announcing that this is his own work, but he need not be so humble; this is a declarative beginning.
Next is St. Petersburg’s TÆT, who already has a couple albums under his belt. Reminiscent of Intermix, the artist offers extended pieces with a slightly brighter patina. Three are in the seven-minute range, while title track “Silver Lines” is twice that length. The effect is trancelike, save for a ballad-tempo closer. No one will accuse Dfaniks of being slow, as the 4-track Centipede stays in the rapid range. Two short videos are included, the more industrial being the percussive “Nudge Xe,” which we’d love to see expanded to the length of the track. The artist is known for wearing elaborate masks, which matches this year’s dress code. Speaking of which, TL3SS‘s Crushing Me, a single and four remixes, is described as “a statement about the bleak and unstable state of our current reality,” which hearkens back to the label’s overall theme. The original edit begins in dark ambience before turning raucous and aggressive; the remixes vary in timbre from drone to dance, but all four remain dark as the world’s current situation.
Johno Wells’ Adjust Index starts in a more introspective fashion, until “Eg5,” which goes for the gut with spoken samples about the packaging of live animals. It’s easy to make a connection to our own overpopulated areas ~ one of the reasons for the spread of COVID. But the mini-album’s overall title may also reflect how many adjustments we’ve all had to make these days. Sleep Clinic (who also contributed a remix to Crushing Me) uses A.D. to comment on the proliferation of technology and its frequently soulless, accelerating effect. To mimic the theme, these “Algorithm”s grow faster as they progress. Whenever a track tops 160 BPM, it becomes nearly impossible to dance to every beat; most people switch to every other beat, a luxury not afforded to those asked to increase work production. When Sleep Clinic slows the pace for its 22-minute closer, the listener feels a fraction of respite.
By Malarki‘s X7e4, Errorgrid is overt in its descriptions of the connection between the music and the news. Writes Egli, “Complicated and uncomfortable, X7e4 reflects the complexity and breakage of our time.” The moods are all over the map, but some hope is also implied in the mountainous image of the cover. The abrasive “11876” is the standout track. L.A.’s Snakes of Russia slows the pace on Carried To California In A Swarm Of Bees, an evocative title that manages to reference apocalypse via swarm and scarcity (bees being endangered these days). Dark and doomlike, these three pieces are urgent and cinematic, culminating in “Beast Adorned,” which sounds a lot like Revelation ~ or fears of the upcoming United States election.
And now to Tom Hall‘s Bestowed Order On Chaos, whose title sounds like an answer but whose sound continues the foreboding theme. In the Biblical sense, bestowing order on chaos is seen as a blessed event (the separating of water and land), while in current terms, a “law and order president” separates black from white and right from wrong, adding another level of chaos to the chaos that is already there. “Crossing Over” is oppressive, yet alluring, leading to the two-part “Linear Displacement Continuum,” a lesson in abrasion and rapid-fire beats. The tempo changes are akin to the whiplash-inducing shifts in public policy and promises of more to come. And while “Pre Code” is slower, the track is also more insidious, insinuating some manner of long game whose details are hidden until they are too late to stop. All indications are that the chaos will continue no matter what the events of November. At least now, thanks to Errorgrid, we have an ongoing soundtrack, unfolding in real time. (Richard Allen)