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Egyptrixx – Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power]

Reviewed by Luke Bradley:

After two previous LP’s on trend-setting label Night Slugs, David Psutka’s third as Egyptrixx is also the inaugural release on his own label Halocline Trance (the name of which doubles as that of the initial track on the album). This move makes sense to me, as although Egyptrixx shares some traits with the artists closely associated with Night Slugs, he never sounded as dancefloor focussed as, say Bok Bok or Girl Unit, even though the music could be used in a club environment. Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power] is something of a progression from 2013’s A/B Till Infinity (which itself was much more of a leap in a set direction from 2011’s more overtly danceable Bible Eyes) but a very subtle and gradual one, evolution more than revolution, perhaps a more sinister atmosphere pervades here, an undercurrent of foreboding present even at the relatively more tranquil moments, but overall there are more similarities to his previous output than differences.

Like most interesting music, this album doesn’t slavishly adhere to any strict genre boundaries, instead tiptoeing around the edges of ambient, techno, ‘bass music’, even the new grime sound (exemplified by Logos and Mumdance), but at its core this is a dyed in the wool industrial record. Plenty of clangs and clinks, bangs and whirs, crashes and smashes etc. I compared Egyptrixx’s previous album to the conglomeration of the found sounds of a hi-tech manufacturing plant, say a PCB factory, in contrast with the usually more rusted metallics of conventional industrial music; silicon and chrome rather than iron and brick. A somewhat esoteric point of reference would be that of an MRI scan. Whilst inside the scanner, before the machinery activates, there is only a faint pneumatic pulse counting a steady unaccented 4/4 beat, which is obliterated when the scan begins and the driving electromagnetic vibrations function as a jackhammer to the cranium, a steady stream of hits that varies every minute or so as the scan progresses. Just as on Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power] there are times of serenity, spectral ambience interspersed with blasts of ferocious yet always calculated percussion. Elements of science fiction creep in but that might just be me recalling parts of Brad Fiedel’s score for The Terminator, especially the tubular clangs and garbled synths, or the fact that it occupies that kind of eternally futuristic use of technology. The interplay of the more dynamic and the sparser sections is handled expertly, never too prolonged and obviously without a hint of aimlessness. Timbrally parallel to his last album but possibly even more stripped back in terms of instrumentation/sound design, with fizzing tonal explosions and elongated square waves conjuring to mind Returnal-era Oneohtrix Point Never or Laurel Halo in techno mode.

The introduction of female vocals (courtesy of Nyssa) on ‘Body II Body’ is a welcome addition and brings to mind Andy Stott’s method of contrasting his austere beats with Alison Skidmore’s airy vocals (I’m actually reminded of Bjork here but I don’t really know why). But if the weightless, floaty synth parts are nice on their own, then when the added impetus of percussion is incorporated, the tracks become even more appealing. Whether it be the traditional hi-hats and kicks or the hydraulic pistons and steam release valves of the virtual factory, the pristine percussive work enhances the crystalline harmonics throughout. Those militant handclaps, reminiscent of Vatican Shadow at times, and the semiquaver burst of kicks act like a boxer unleashing a flurry of hooks to the gut after his robotic jab and metronomic footwork laid the foundations for the assault. Emotionally, it’s difficult to call the album beautiful, as there is far too much menace and aggression in there, but as a listening experience it flows from one track to the next smoothly, almost hypnotically, although that naturally creates the double edged sword that there are also no stand out cuts. However, I can safely say Psutka’s has managed to find a style that sounds a bit like a lot of things but not a lot like anything.

Finally, I’d like to consider the artwork in relation to the sounds. It may be the Night Slugs connection consciously linking the two in my mind, but the cover picture is like a deconstruction of the Classical Curves cover. On that there was a gold silk cloth, a motorbike lying on its side as if crashed and deserted, the steel and glass enclosure of the building, but offsetting these is the verdant plant life at the heart of the image. On Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power] a silver silk cloth is draped over the gutted, exposed innards of a car door resting against concrete. Everything here is various shades of grey, only the reflection of light adding any relief to the scene. Both of these images reek of artificiality, but whereas one has some trace of optimism and nature, the other, just the sterile and calculated creations of man, steel and concrete, function and utility. But the car door is not attached to a car, it has lost its reason to exist; to regulate entry and exit to a vehicle. Similarly, Egyptrixx takes tropes and elements that were once applied as a means to incite and stimulate dance, and appropriates them inside music without a function other than to be listened to and enjoyed. So listen and, hopefully, enjoy.

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