The micro-macro sound art power trio are back with this great release on St Petersburg’s Intonema label. Polis documents an installation in the streets of Porto last year, in which Vasco Alves, Adam Asnan and Louie Rice created a detailed electronic composition, which was then played through a car sound system, recorded and that recording then remixed after the fact. On this CD, you get three versions of the piece – or three different pieces, depending on your viewpoint – and they’re all bloody brilliant.
At first, the piece (or the first piece of the three, if you prefer) seems definitely to sit at the micro end of the scale, occasionally similar to the trio’s recent-ish Ping Cone cassette. So there are inscrutable crackles and rumbles aplenty, but there’s more emphasis on rhythm here, with a pleasing low-end pulse and a series of regular hisses, pops and clicks. It’s kind of minimal, but rigid enough, with that special beauty that comes from repetition. It starts me thinking about what industrial music would sound like if it were made by insects. Real small insects. Like ants.
But then you get to hear the piece played through the car speakers on the streets of Porto, recorded in situ, and it’s time to refocus. The insect techno is now a fucking huge monster groove, the pulse like the deep sub-bass hum of a conquering mothership. All sorts of heavy clangs and hostile electronics blurt and squelch across the space. It’s so ominous, so alien that it’s disconcerting to hear human voices – passers-by, or an audience of sorts – seeping in after about five minutes. These people are probably out for a nice evening walk, maybe going for a plate of sardinhas later, or a nice glass of Vinho do Port. Why aren’t they running for their lives?
By the final track, things are mashed up for sure. The rhythms are juddering, malevolent, less metrically rigid than the first two, with more fuzz and scrunch messing up the clarity. If you were in a club this would be the music you’d hear at 6am, when only the real brain melters are still dancing, their frazzled lobes somehow able to detect any fragment of groove, however twisted. (In fact, I seem to remember the techno DJ Surgeon playing a track very similar to this one very early morning at a rave in a filthy basement just off Brick Lane, sometime around 1996. I mean, are these guys time travellers, or what?)
Then, just as you think it’s safe to dig the zombie groove, the trio mess things up even more. About 10 minutes in, they lay down a guttural, saw-toothed blast of noise, a vast Satanic burp that also acts as a kind of fuzz filter, amplifying and scuzzing up the sonic chassis that immediately preceded it. It’s pure Driller Killer from then on ‘til the end, the trio ploughing a grinding, electro-mechanical furrow, daring you to follow in its slipstream as it razes everything around it.