Function: Incubation (Ostgut-Ton)
The first track of Incubation comes into focus like a dream sequence. “Voiceprint” is an ambient introduction that showcases Function’s ability to move listeners’ minds and hearts without a beat. But the beat is what Function is perhaps best known for, and it doesn’t take long for him to dive right in. “Against the Wall” is a restrained dancefloor track with a dry kick and reverberated tones that exemplify the balance between dry and wet, hard and soft, at which he is quite good. Anyone who’s followed techno over the past few years is likely familiar with Sandwell District, the now-defunct techno troupe of which Function was a key member. He continues to finesse and flaunt the distinct style and sound he mapped out as part of SD here, and the results are perhaps not surprising but nonetheless impeccable. My favorite track is probably “Incubation (Ritual)” with its highly repetitive kick and hihat rhythm section, an insistent synth line, and gloomy, airy pads. “Inter” makes a second appearance after closing out Funtion’s Ember EP last year, and despite having already been released, it’s a welcome inclusion with its handsome combination of dubby effects, light tones and staggered bass kicks. At other times, the production is punchier, as heard in “Voiceprint (Reprise),” which has a much more upfront snare/clap combo in the rhythm section. But Function is at his finest when he splits the difference between chilly atmosphere and buoyant electronics. “Gradient I” is the lead single from the album, and it falls at the tail end of the playlist. It’s the nexus of everything great about this album, namely a frosty reverberated landscape anchored by repetitive, minimal electronic patterns and a staggered kick sequence that recalls some of Monolake’s icier moments. As far as techno goes, it doesn’t get much better than this; Incubation is an album that works best from start to finish, but just about any and all of its tracks work quite well on their own.