Louder Than War’s Bert Random finds new EP by Sheffield techno pioneers The Black Dog a refreshing and deftly layered sonic treat.
These are bleak, spooky times, full of false idols and plastics gods, so it’s always a relief when a slab of music drops that doesn’t rely on hype-spun pre-sets or talent show shtick to make it’s point.
And here come the latest iteration of UK techno/bass-and-bleep originators The Black Dog, bang on time with some precision sounds to wake us from our stupor.
Emerging from their studios in the heart of SoYo – the creative parallel universe that just happens to share physical space with city we know as Sheffield – and gliding on the updraft of the success of their discerning Electronic Supper Club dances, this four-track EP is a fantastic warm-up for the full album due later this year. It’s got a warm sound, an all-encompassing one, with production as spot-on as you would expect from people who have been plying their trade for over 20 years.
First tune, called ‘Bleep Four’, starts with a gentle invocation of the power of passion and politics as the voice of veteran left-wing politician Tony Benn laments the ability of those with riches and power to manipulate those of us who have neither to vote against our own best interests. It sounds like a voice from the last century. This benevolent, patrician voice sets the tone for a tune that is built on a solid 4/4, with assorted clanks and clicks rocking it from side to side. Two slow, looping melody lines come in, then drift in and out of earshot, winding themselves around each other, all underpinned by a massive bass throb which is not so much a note as a feeling deep inside your bones – a gorgeous feeling.
Next up, ‘Bleep Two’ drops in faster, the skittering hi-hat and incessant high-end jabbing sounds adding to the sense of tension, drawing us towards a bleaker future where benevolent patrician figures have been left far behind, and have been replaced by the chubby yet hollow faces of Eton-educated, but oh-so-dumb, career politicians who are merely killing time in public office before going on to kill millions through lucrative directorships in the rapacious moral-vacuums that masquerade as modern trans-national business institutions.
Track three – ‘Bleep One’ – is a lost soundtrack for an Eisenstein film where a plucky Russian peasant moves to a city, full of hope but instead becomes part of a human machine, banging her bit of the production line with a massive hammer in perfect time with her thousands of comrades, humanity as physical capital, assets to be exploited. Closer, ‘Bleep Five’, is even bleaker, flinging us towards an uncertain future on a dread-powered roller-coaster.
In the wrong hands this layering of sounds could descend into minimal boredom, or digress into wobble-driven bollocks, but luckily with such experienced hands on the wheel The Black Dog don’t lose sight of their destination, and transport us with a sound so pure it tickled pleasure centres I’d forgotten I had. Even though the future they point us towards seems a ominous place, this is a highly recommended slice of crisp UK techno.
Words by Bert Random. More writing by Bert on Louder Than War can be found here.