Errorgrid ~ Gridworks 1: Tension/Release

L.A.’s Errorgrid label has been on a tear this year, already releasing two albums, a remix EP and now a label compilation.  The instrumental side of industrial / IDM has been underserved in recent years, shoved aside by its more obvious cousin electropop / EBM.  For a quick primer, compare Gridworks 1: Tension / Release and the vast Alfa Matrix compilation Matrix Downloaded 10, released a week earlier.  While the latter compilation does contain some winners, the vocals take center stage, with an emphasis more on emotion than intricacy.  What Errogrid has done over the past year is demonstrate that the machines are not done; the mechanical branch of the industrial tree is poised to outlast the organic branches.

For all the seeming soullessness of machine music, the international Errorgrid roster already seems like a family.  January’s The Dodeka Remixes paired label founder Olivier Egli’s work as Nundale with remixes from Sleep Clinic, Tom Hall, Dfaniks, Snakes of Russia and TL3SS; the original also appears on Gridworks 1, while the others contribute new tracks.  Dfaniks ~ whose Save the Robots launched the year, and Blakmoth, whose Absent the Void kept the energy going, make new appearances; in fact, every Errorgrid artist is here, making the set a fine companion to last year’s Selection 1.  

The album is split into halves: Tension and Release.  The concept is to explore “the coexistence of polar opposites.”  In the current political climate, the ability to hold seemingly opposing views is a crucial skill.  One may also interpret the concept to include yin and yang, which swirl, rather than battle.  Snakes of Russia starts the album with the lurking, doom-laden “Skeletal,” a continuation of the template set by Carried to California in a Swarm of Bees.  TL3SS’ “Color Atura” surprises out of the gate with a series of “ahhh”s, which eventually lead to a far darker region.  Blakmoth’s dark ambience is a perfect match for the “Tension” side, building suspense over seven minutes.  Then  Malarki’‘s “Moment Rescinded” sounds an emergency alarm, which continues rhythmically and unheeded.  TÆT increases the tempo to the point that one suspects the tension has broken, but the repeating patterns of “Revolver” stop just short of tipping over.  Somatic Responses wraps the half with “UH!2,” continuing the 160 b.p.m. tempo, seeming like a continuation of the previous track, save for a new sense of urgency in the snares and wandering synth.  Were it not for the desire to keep things equal, we’d have included this track under “Release.”

Sleep Clinic’s piece holds tempo and abstraction together with a razor thin wire.  The beats seem to tumble over each other in a rush for the door.  Tom Hall’s “Rsqv” begins as a jumble but soon starts to sort itself out, with ticking and tapping over a short drone.  But even this tension cannot hold as the cogs fall out.  By “Dodeka,” we start to glean how each piece received its designation; “release” seems less emotional release than a release from the constraints of steadiness and predictability.  As such, we’re greatly amused to encounter Dfaniks’ 88 b.p.m. “Glozza,” because the last time we reviewed the artist we wrote, “no one will accuse Dfaniks of being slow.”  And now a slow piece!  Johno Wells closes the album proper with the seemingly formless “Subjecta” (just try dancing to it!), but then there’s a surprise bonus from Blush Response. “Motivational Angst in Purgatory” merges rhythm and exploration in a manner that honors the compilation’s theme.  The future is looking bright for this dark label.  (Richard Allen)

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