Glitch Mode Recordings
It’s a little weird to think that Tech Noir is only the fourth proper Cyanotic LP; Sean Payne’s industrial rock project has felt like a constant in the landscape of the American scene for well over a decade at this point, the actual number of albums released aside. At least part of that sense of presence is due to the enormous number of collaborations and side-projects Payne has been a part of, and the reflection of his musical interests in the releases by his Glitch Mode label. As such, the new album feels like a good affirmation of Cyanotic as Payne’s main outlet, a meat and potatoes listening experience that reasserts the band’s template while showing some technical advancement in its presentation.
Interestingly, Payne has gotten good enough at making songs in this style that he can get industrial rock across almost entirely through synthwork and production – although these songs feature bass guitar provided by Kevin Barron, programming rules the day on Tech Noir. Check out how the synthetic drums and the chugging verse on “Deadweight” convey a live rhythm section, albeit tightly assembled and edited to give it that mechanical flavour. There’s a crispness to the mix that helps highlight individual sequences and samples, like on opener “Mainlining Tension” where thunderous kicks land distinctly between chattering glitches and synth bass.
That slick studio feel doesn’t belie the project’s roots and inspirations however – there’s something distinctly old school in how these songs are presented. It’s not just the movie samples or Payne’s take-it-or-leave it growling vocals, but in how these numbers feel like they could have been written in a different era, and transposed to 2017. Despite varying in tempo and instrumentation songs like “Surveying City Ruins” or “Hyperaware” feel like they could have fit neatly into any given early-to-mid 90s Numb album. You can find it in the arrangements which favour momentum, and in the texture of the design which falls somewhere between sleek cyborg and decrepit wasteland. It’s an aesthetic choice to be certain, and one that allows for some variation when the project decides to go there: the cinematic instrumental “Neo-Tokyo Skyline” and the busted up digital hardcore cut “Salvage the Excess” slot in just as well as anything else here despite being cut from a different cloth.
Tech Noir is a solid piece of work that is served by its brevity and its potency. At 8 songs and around 35 minutes, it shows Cyanotic at their most focused, and their most functional, a robotic state of the union for a band that hasn’t ever wavered from their path.