Review: ndr0n – Black

TRUTHTABLE.

For a record constructed using algorithmic and generative techniques, the opening minutes of Black are suspiciously straight-forward. An electronic beat skims along in a groovy 4/4, accompanied by a synth drone that sweeps the back wall like a searchlight. Despite the cold monotony of ndr0n’s texture palette, nothing suggests that there’s anything other than human intuition at the helm. Yet soon enough there are flickers of artificial sabotage. Beats are skipped and others punctuate prematurely, and the piece accrues so many syncopations that the rhythm starts to lag and accelerate. It tilts on its axis to reveal new perspectives, or contradicts itself until it slips off the grid altogether. Those opening minutes are thus recast as source data for the algorithm to chew on and reinterpret. The groove is funnelled through a regurgitative loop, spat out and chewed up again, with each round of processing pulling it further away from dance music designed for the throes of human limbs. In its extreme form, this is electronica for the abstracted entity, tailored to a rhythmic comprehension that resides several dimensions away from this one.

The rest of the EP continues this unspooling of the groove, although sometimes rhythm is left intact while other instruments face refraction: the second half of “Lup” makes vocal harmonies shudder like rattlesnake tails, with the swoops of human pitch adjustment hardened into right angles; the spoken instructions on “Encode” are smashed into fragments of glitch. For an artist who explores the synthetic and mechanised behaviours adopted by people in urban society, it feels apt that convention is a brittle thing on Black. Over the course of mere moments, the façade of homely recurrence and regularity is pulled down, returning ndr0n to its root state of fractal complexity and ambiguity.

The record also seems to be working with the central irony of our modern notion of “dance”; that we affiliate one of our fundamental human activities with a music that is deliberately ridden of bodily traces. Save for those aforementioned snatches of voice, Black is rendered exclusively in wires, bolts, metal sheets and digital impressions of these elements: skittering hi-hats that resemble the micro-hydraulics of robot dexterity, the loitering drones of server cooling fans, and gigantic bass frequencies that seem to tug the whole record downward, away from the light that might allow organic life to thrive. In fact, the rhythmic abstraction of Black could be said to bring the material and kinetic into alignment. When the music is so vividly artificial in texture, why choreograph its movement to the tastes of an abstracted consciousness as well?