Tri Angle Records has taken a dark stand on the state of electronic dance music. Much as provocateur Genesis P-Orridge and Throbbing Gristle did with the oft-impenetrable Industrial Records, the imprint revels in revolutionary sounds, from the dystopian and totalitarian bass of Evian Christ to the long-tone menace of The Haxan Cloak. Add Durham-based producer Brandon Juhans, or Hanz, to that ominous roster.
On Reducer, Hanz's proper debut for Tri Angle, the sound is ghastly and ghostly, as if haunting the unlit nooks of a soon-to-be condemned disco. The Frankenstein-like "Throwing" adds the propulsive pulses of Suicide to the digitized dub of Vladislav Delay. The entire album indeed evokes a house of horrors for a generation of Electric Daisy Carnival attendees. Stuttering opener "The History Of" could soundtrack the sight of Flat Eric, the puppet mascot of Mr. Oizo's dance hit "Flat Beat," finally ending it all. Much of Reducer is too disconcerting and defiant for the dancefloor, too willfully strange and jarring for easy listening.
But Hanz has no intention of making anyone comfortable. The tropes of club music serve as bits of aural offal for him to sift, while the respective rules of hip-hop and dancehall offer even more protein for his grinder. He shapes it all into a reconstituted labor of love, an Endtroducing..... for the millennial nihilist. There's innate beauty in the way Hanz pulls a Brion Gysin-like mask of soft electronics and sharp cut-ups over a Black Flag spoken word on "War Fiction." The ambition mostly matches his execution, too.
Whether or not Hanz breaks out like some of his Tri Angle labelmates remains to be seen. (And ditto on whether or not Reducer's release as a free download helps or hurts those chances.) The inherent risks of making experimental work have waylaid some of electronic music's most interesting artists. Sure, Evian Christ's recent signing with Warp Records signals wider acceptance of Tri Angle's message and mission, but Hanz doesn't yet have the benefit of a Kanye West cosign. Still, Reducer remains a promising introduction, a daring and sophisticated approximation of Yeezus' Armageddon aesthetics.
Label: Tri Angle Records
This article appeared in print with the headline "Touchy subjects."