Emptyset: Recur (Raster-Noton)
It’s always intrigued me how “industrial” as a musical genre shifted focus from the more atonal experimentation of Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records into essentially dance music with vocals pumped through distortion; the end result is closer to an angry Depeche Mode instead of anything having to do with the images the label conjures up. Recur, on the other hand, sounds like industry to me. It chugs and grinds and writhes its way across nine tracks in a way that is far more compelling to me than their previous output. James Ginzburg and Paul Purbas’s latest starts with series of blistering blasts of noise. Indeed, there’s something primal about the progressive stop and start of “Origin,” setting the stage for the full-on assault of “Fragment.”
Rhythm and noise are the key elements of Recur, whose themes of repetition and recurrence are built into even the title. But the stop/start nature of many of these tracks removes them completely from the techno flirtations the duo has exercised in the past, with a couple exceptions. “Order,” the fourth track, is the longest and one of the most regular, grinding in rhythm like an industrial strength can opener, while “Instant” could almost work its way into a leftfield DJ set with its plodding kick drum and undulating rolls of feedback (not unlike Pan Sonic).
But just as much as Emptyset are concerned with the visceral qualities of presence and noise, they are enamored with the spaces between; “Absence” sounds like the prolonged shudder of amplified hush, nervously fluttering its signal for a few moments, serving as sort of a halfway point of demarcation. The second half is again rhythm and noisy, but it seems less concerned with the full-on blast of raw sound that characterizes the first few tracks. Instead, there is a disjointed groove about them, like the repetition of the title track or the aforementioned pulse of “Instant.” Closing track “Limit” pulls it all together, with some heavy-handed syncopation while a variety of noisy signals battle it out. The whole thing is over and done within 35 minutes, making it quite short by current album standards. But Emptyset get it right in that sense; it’s the right length for the confrontational nature of the music. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it might leave you a bit bruised on its timely way out.