One-man San Antonio based project MODEBIONICS has been releasing a fairly steady stream of one-off singles and EPs over the last two years, notable for their invocation of a classic style of industrial situated between the first wave of 90s dark electro and mid-decade electro-industrial sounds. More than just capturing the cybernetic aesthetics of the era, new release Precise Control has Rolan Vega showing his capacity for the intricate programming and arrangements that characterize its production style and more importantly, its distinctive atmosphere.
A track like “RESUME FUNCTION” is essentially a primer on how to put together a song in the early Zoth Ommog mold: the chirpy synthline that runs razortight through the track, gated drum sounds and processed vocal samples are cleverly worked around one another in patterns that build, stall and then burst forward paying off the built up tension. Those kinds of unpredictable choices in placement of sounds and sections create a mood of unease that Vega leverages to good effect; see how “DESTRA DESTROY” forgoes any sustained four on the floor beats for much of its runtime, allowing the 16th note bassline and harshly whispered vocals to hold the spotlight as drum triplets and snare hits pop off around them, or how the more rhythmically straightforward “ONE BY WAR” inverts uses its main synth part to flip between verse and chorus.
The strength of the record’s idiosyncratic choices in configuration are matched by a good ear for mood and texture, foreboding and pensive by turns. The more portentous sound is the order of the day on opening and closing instrumentals “ENTER: POPULOUS DELETE” and “EXIT: SOLIIS TRANSMISSION”, their sound design marked by voices both distant and proximal, rich pads flowing between thoughtfully between snatches of drums and blasts of synth on the former, and whirring and wheezing samples that invoke deep space on the latter. The potency of those big swathes of sound is equally potent in busier tracks, such as “REVOLT IN SILENCE” where the pall cast by the cloudy synths that float above the song’s faster moving elements tamps down the mood without losing any of its energy or momentum.
While “PRECISE CONTROL” is certainly reminiscent of the classic run of early singles and albums from familiar acts like X Marks the Pedwalk, Leaether Strip or even Evil’s Toy, it rises above imitation by simple virtue of its thoughtful execution. Its one thing reconsitute the graspable aspects of a vintage sound, but it takes inspiration and consideration to tap into their spirit. With this, their most complete release thus far MODEBIONICS has claimed its spot at the forefront at rising wave of new US dark electro. Recommended.