As Polypores, Stephen James Buckley has created a discography of claustrophobic electronica that mashes gloopy retro oscillations, spooky synth washes and head-nodding beats into quirky, unsettling shapes. For those favouring the crumbled textures of Ghost Box records and Boards of Canada, Buckley’s constructions will taste familiar, but he’s a dab hand at it. The longform Tangerine Dream voyaging of Wastes from the end of last year is a highlight, while the mysterious Radiophonic shimmer of The Fialka Transmissions, released a couple of months earlier, is equally marvellous.
With this inaugural Tulketh release, however, Buckley has cut his cloth to a different robe. The dense and allusive haze of Polypores is gone, replaced with no-nonsense directness. Buckley’s switched up the BPMs and honed in on jackhammer kick drums, squelching baselines and terse synth melodies, creating a set of tunes as lean as a starving wolf and twice as grumpy. Frenetic and feverish, it’s entrancing stuff, with the drums pitched fast enough to induce a tense gurn in all but the most hardened ravers. Detroit is definitely an influence here, with Buckley having internalized the Mills/May/Hood playbook of achieving maximum sensory impact with minimum input. The metallic clanking syncopation that cuts in halfway through Tox is a great example, cross-hatching what would otherwise be a rather too linear synthetic surge into a corroded delight, its spiralling baseline burrowing into your lobes like a steel maggot. One could only imagine the mass hypnosis that might result when played at maximum volume to a warehouse full of beat disciples.
That said, although Buckley seems to want to link General Waste to the dark and dingy smash of industrial music, I can’t help finding it an immensely enjoyable album of stripped-back dance music. I can take or leave all this ‘industrial dance’ stuff for the most part, mainly because, a few notable exceptions aside, they had no groove. Buckley – although he may not agree with my sentiments – understands what’s required get on the good foot, and the fact that he delivers it with a relatively simple setup (three synths and a drum machine, recorded live with no overdubs) proves that you don’t need banks of pricey kit and weeks of editing to do it. The technicolor bleeps and mid-range rattles of Rustloop are pure joy, whatever anyone might say, and together with the ramrod stiffness of its hi-hat and kick drum pattern, are a top-drawer recipe for a serotonin rush, even when played through tinny laptop speakers or a cheap cassette player from Argos. Best of all, however, is Dry Rot, whose hyperactive Moroder bassline is just crying out for an imperious Pete Burns yowl to launch its ironclad frame into the stratosphere. Watch out. Here I come.