A short blast of synthetic flip-flop from the quizzically named Richard, documenting a late night session between Johan Östman, Benjamin Shreves and Conditional label boss Calum Gunn in Berlin, fuelled by red wine and aided, bizarrely, by a strobe light. It’s a bumpy, restless ride, with layers of errant kick-drum and frenetic handclaps adding to the synthetic crockpot jangle. Metallic swishes chop across phaser pings and gutsy squelches splatter against technoid squiggles. Beats are choppy and irregular, but the rhythmic judder still resonates sufficiently to activate a long-submerged rave gene and get us nodding along to their warped prisms. ‘Soft Feel Fun’ is a fine example of the trio’s approach, with jittery, percussive bloops bleeding out of the scarred surface like polyps squeezed from a giant egg-sac. The scruffy and endearing ‘Intensity Fine’ is another highlight, with typewriter percussion clacking out a jackhammer beat as glassy plonks and custardy synth goo drizzle round the edges. Proper disco.
The trio jammed out these cuts in a round-robin, I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours kind of way, each creating a bunch of stuff before passing them down the line for the others to mess with (the setup was “a monster” according to Gunn, involving Ableton Live Operator, Max for Live and all sorts of synth and drum machine weirdness). It’s not totally spontaneous – Gunn gave everything a final once-over before letting this mongrel baby into the wild – but enough of a bolshy, improvised feel remains to keep things alive and kicking.
With the whole thing clocking in at just over a quarter of an hour, ‘Pocket Protection’ is short and sweet. It may lack the cyborg refinement of some of the trio’s label mates – Daniel M. Karlsson’s ‘Expanding and Overwriting’ remains a highlight of Conditional’s output so far, with its latest release, Maria W. Horn’s ‘Excitation – Frustration – Excitation’ close behind. But there’s an immediacy to these jolting irruptions that makes for good listening. The trio’s restraint is admirable, too, given many artists’ preoccupation with releasing any old tat onto their Mixcloud or Bandcamp. Yet surely it can’t be too entitled to ask whether a little bit more of this gummy madness could have crept past the editor-in-chief?