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Cassegrain: Centres of Distraction (Prologue)

Cassegrain’s brand of techno is decidedly dark and minimal. The duo has released numerous EPs (I wrote about their Tiamat EP here, but they have several more that are all well worth a listen) but this full-length popped up seemingly out of nowhere for me at the end of the year. I suppose minimal techno is difficult to describe in ways that distinguish its standouts from one another, and yet every one of them has a certain something to make it special, to stand apart somehow.

Centres of Distraction starts off strongly with “A Study of Splashes,” a rousing, dark, urgent techno cut, with a looping, alarming pattern of filtered synths that undulate over time. It shows off all of the tight production chops Cassegrain has honed over the years, all put to masterful effect. But things get more interesting from there; instead of delivering techno again, they shift focus with the bleak spaciousness of “Resilin,” which features a rather strangely infectious “hook” of sorts, as if it happened by accident. This track sits well alongside a few other definite standouts that sit out the dancefloor completely. “New Hexagon” is a cyclical layering of drumming and percussion that feels simultaneously disorienting and almost meditative. Though it breaks from the techno paradigm almost fully if only by virtue of no kick or low end, it’s easily my favorite track on the album. “Glasshouse” is another chilly, more downtempo track that carries the torch from Pan Sonic’s more minimal heyday, while “Empress Cut in Segments,” featuring strings from Nikos Veliotis, has a darker underbelly that recalls the more harrowing sounds on the Stroboscopic Artefacts label. But ultimately Cassegrain are a techno outfit, and they deliver plenty of that with a high level of quality control. Whether it’s in the 90s hard trance suggestion of “Intrude – Restrain” or the squiggly, rolling synths of “Scythian,” there is more than enough good techno to put Centres of Distraction toward the top of any fan’s list for the year. When combined with the less obvious and more interesting wayward travels that flesh out the album, it’s certainly one of my favorite electronic releases of 2014.

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