Black Asteroid
Infinite Darkness
Artoffact Records

Bryan Black’s work has generally always benefited from guest vocals; while he sang for his industrial rock project haloblack in the 90s, his work as half of electro-duo Motor and his solo work as Black Asteroid has had the American producer tapping powerful and distinctive voices including Martin Gore, Gary Numan, Zola Jesus, and Cold Cave’s Wes Eisold amongst others. His debut LP for Artoffact Records Infinite Darkness taps into vocalists from within and without the label, integrating them into varying fashion across the album’s grinding techno-infused soundscapes.

The record’s best tracks are the ones that feel geared specifically for the artist lending their voice to it. “Meth Rain” isn’t especially Front Line Assembly-ish, but its busy syncopated percussion and grinding synth patterns provide an excellent backdrop for Bill Leeb’s familiar processed singing style, bouncing through burnt out cities of sound on its thumping kick drum. And while you’d never ever mistake the pulsing bass and and sharp, hissy drum machine snares of “Ashes and Dust” for a song by ACTORS, but it does suit Jason Corbett’s multi-tracked singing, long delays creating a forest of voices for him to walk through. Even fashion designer Michelle Lamy who isn’t known for her pipes at all feels right at home on the slow rolling groove and scissoring analogue synthesizer patterns of “Machine”, her warped and looped presence adding to the track’s tense atmosphere.

Not every song works though, some falling short of the record’s peaks either from a miscast guest or their presence feeling completely secondary. The Cult’s Ian Astbury sounds deeply out of place on opener “Dirge Out”, the speedy rhythm programming and atonal melodics that emerge interacting poorly with his rock-style crooning. Alternately, while the bending stabs and punky guitars that blast over kick-clap drums on “Love” would seem to be an ideal song to have LOUISAHHH provide vocals for, she ends up weirdly ancillary to the proceedings, buried behind the instrumental in the mix. Both songs feel like they might have been better as instrumentals, joining the expertly assembled techno body cut “Polyfusion” and the funky electro-touched “Blast” on the record’s voiceless contingent.

Leaving aside all of Infinite Darkness‘s numerous guests, it’s a record that feels very much of a piece with Black Asteroid’s broader catalogue. Black is less focused on hooks than he is on rhythm and structure as an artist; these songs are more memorable for their sound design (a field that Black entered working in the legendary Paisley Park studios) and their shape than they are for their leads or melodies. Given his penchant for collaboration, it’s a testament to Black’s technical and arrangement skills that this record, as with all his work, feels distinctly his.

Buy it.