Producer Fabrizio Matrone’s first album for Ant-Zen digs deep into the label’s penchant for rhythmic noise and analogue soundscapes, with an appropriate archaeological concept. Inspired by fossil catalogues that act as a window into the pre-human era of Earth’s ecology, the music on Primitive Forms is made up of crunchy percussion and deep, grinding drones that suggest a hostile environment, and the life that might have flourished in it.
Stepping away from the record’s conceptual underpinnings, Matrone proves himself to be adept at delivering the sort of music that has defined Ant-Zen’s catalogue for over 20 years. The dense, claustrophobic beats of “Range” are accented by rusty cymbal programming and chattery synth patterns that prevent the rising tide of overdrive from dissolving the entire track into fuzz, creating space for dynamics in an otherwise busy spectrum of sound. “Extinction” stretches out the same template for a different effect, allowing brittle crests of noise to buzzsaw their way between each drum hit, before overtaking the entirety of the song. It’s a traditional playbook for rhythmic noise, but one invigorated by attention to detail and careful ear to sound design.
Interestingly, Matrone also finds space to explore techno and body music ideas on the record. It’s most obvious on the jarringly clean and precise closing track “Facies”, whose grooving drum track, gated snare and stabby synths wouldn’t feel out of place in a dark techno set, but also on “Trace” where an EBM bassline emerges from the murk, disguised though it is by a layer of grit. You can even detect it on the seemingly trad power noise of “Hierarchy”, especially when a crisp hi-hat highlights the song’s analogue synth sequences, otherwise masked by the song’s tectonic grind.
Primitive Forms works reasonably well on a thematic level, and tapping into the evergreen rawness of power noise to convey an adverse setting to life as we understand it. Free from that context, it plays out as a good trad genre effort with some interesting nods to contemporary trends in industrial. The ideas it hints at are intriguing, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Matter follows up on them in future releases.