Sonic Groove Records
Now that the novelty of heavy-duty industrialized techno has worn off, and the style has become a mainstay in underground club scenes around the world it takes a record like French producer Crystal Geometry’s Senestre to remind us what we found appealing about the hybridized style in the first place. As an ostensible best-of-both-worlds approach to making dance music, too many producers have latched onto surface elements of industrial and EBM and grafted them onto deadly boring dance tracks that bang loud but have little depth or lasting appeal. Crystal Geometry avoids that pitfall by making music that operates on deep grooves, caustic textures and inventive builds and release.
Although Crystal Geometry is quick to note that they make extensive use of modular synthesis on their tracks, the sound design on Senestre has a mechanized and efficient air to it, devoid of the noodly sounds one often associates with eurorack composition. Rapidfire basslines, monotone vocals and thudding drums are the order of the day, often arranged around variations in percussion and modulation. Opener “Occupied Territories” exemplifies this approach, using menacing drones, clever cymbal programming and clanging metallic sounds to add texture and nuance. It’s a banger, but one with surprising depth when you pay attention to the arrangement which darts through a surprisingly varied number of configurations, a feat repeated on the body-music touched numbers like “1312 Bombs” and “No Respect for Officials” to great effect.
Even more interesting are the moments when Crystal Geometry adds new sounds to his arsenal. The omnipresence of repeated phrases that speak to the record’s anti-authority themes are a distinctive feature, and we were also taken by the application of processed guitar on the spooky “Spiritu Superiori” and “Political Prisoners”, where chunky riffs are made to sound both familiar and alien via stiff sequencing. Equally interesting is the hypnotic syncopation on “Ténèbres”, a song that builds around big choral pads, but maintains rhythmic focus through blasts of triplet kicks and rubbery bass.
Moreso than anything else, Senestre succeeds by keeping things moving and never settling too deep into a single posture for long. With so many releases mining similar territory, it can’t be understated how good Crystal Geometry is at making these sounds fresh, invigorating and even surprising. It’s a solid record that has dancefloor and headphone appeal, and sets the pace for albums of its style in 2020.