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Bolder: Hostile Environment (Editions Mego)

Bolder is a collaborative effort between Peter Votava (Pure, Ilsa Gold) and Martin Maischein (Goner, Heinrich at Hart) that continually dodges expectations over the course of these six tracks. Being somewhat familiar with the abstract sounds of some of Votava’s repertoire, Bolder is surprisingly accessible, with opening track “Sinking Cities” feeling as though it crawled out of the dark space between dub and Tri Angle gloom (Haxan Cloak, Balam Acab). But not all of Hostile Environment sounds like that, which is why this mini-album is interesting to me; the best way to describe it is to give a blow-by-blow of its track sequence. “Morbid Funk Ride” lives up to its name with a little swagger to its rhythm section, swinging in time while bulbous fat synths squirm under the surface, channeling the disembodied funk of Throbbing Gristle at their most infectious. Fans of Pure won’t be surprised by the element of white noise and texture that colors the track, washing over like a tide halfway through. “Deep Cuts” changes the game up considerably with its looping squeezebox tones and grinding post-dubstep synths, all set to a gloomy, plodding rhythm track that would make Raime proud.

“Extraterrestrial Deactivity” recalls the digital dirges of Senking’s latest for Raster-Noton, spacious and crisp and dark, like dark electro that’s playing back at ¼ speed, again channeling that spacious feeling of dub without any of the warm or fuzzy associations one might bring to that genre. “Residuality” is another curveball, a beatless excursion into more freeform noise, recalling the experimental edge of Votava’s alter egos or the blistering rawness of recent material from Emptyset (not to mention vintage Mego). Oddly, it’s one of the real highlights of the set, emphasizing the duo’s knack for sculpting raw sound without obfuscating it through any rhythmic trends. The mini-album rounds out nicely with the amalgamation of sounds that comprise “Passive Aggressive,” touching on elements of spacious IDM, dub, and more; its rhythm section has a heavy-handed reverb that booms with gravitas as other elements support it to completion. The tension between its treble chorus of drones and a wobbling, skittering mid-range layer of synths reinforce the unusual dynamic of the entire release, often side-stepping expectations and combining references in interesting and new ways.

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