The strength of Stefan Alt’s Ant-Zen label has not only been in defining its niche, but in finding forward thinking new artists to fill it. A case like Gutenberg (aka Japanese producer Shouji Sakurai) puts that theory into sharp relief; the music on Unnecessary Bronze speaks to Ant-Zen’s history and purview in rhythmic noise, but also speaks to some of the areas in which that music’s template can be expanded. Using field recordings and metallic percussion elements as the basis for his tracks, Gutenberg bridges fanciful abstraction with powernoise’s brutalist structures and rhythms. This kind of hybridization started almost as soon as the style became formally identifiable in the late 90s, but Sakurai approaches with forethought, injecting the chittering click-driven “Sky Layer” with bitcrushed blocks of noise and swirling tones with equal deliberation. It’s easy to detect the meticulousness of the record’s assembly in the way that “Hydraulic Labor Force” sneakily alters its central loop through the external layering of sounds with conflicting frequencies. Similarly, the strangely literal “People, Singing, Iron Pile” relies on distant horn sounds and clanging drum hits which become both more and less organic through arrangement and context. “Inspired From Dje” makes the most of Gutenberg’s careful juxtaposition, using quick cuts, random sequences of keys, and unfolding sound design to construct and then deconstruct itself.
Los Angeles 2020
We’ve long since given up on keeping up with each and every variation of body music which manages to worm and warp its way out of LA and into the broader psyche. Freestyle homages? Callbacks to a specific EBM moment which popped off like a roman candle for a hot minute and then vanished without crossing the state line? We’re not the folks to tell you. What we can say is that Panther Modern’s 4-track EP doesn’t feel tied to its city of origin despite its title. The restless kicks which make up throwback tracks like “Creep” (half The Hacker, half Boy Harsher) never allow the listener to settle into a comfortable, let alone sexy groove. They exist to agitate and angry up listeners, rallying hot-blooded beats and compressed programming and vocals into an agitated fury. For every comparison one might make to fellow groove-mongers Multiple Man or Physical Wash, the one-man (Brady Kheen) act boxes you into a tight hothouse of bass and muttering, with none of the cool release we’ve gained from similar band’s antecedents. Hot, merciless days lie ahead, and Panther Modern know it. Like those wise women from Bananarama said, lo those many years ago, “It’s a cruel summer.”