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Errorsmith
& Mark Fell: Protogravity EP (Pan)

Two
of the most interesting auteurs of electronic music at the moment
have put their heads together for perhaps what was an inevitable
collaboration. Errorsmith has been bucking dancefloor music
conventions since the 90s, and Mark Fell has honed his craft for
jerky, irregular riffs on dance music since breaking out solo from
his influential project snd. Fell’s sound is so distinct that I can
usually identify one of his productions or remixes immediately. It’s
almost always focused around sharp, metallic stabs of sound that are
at once completely synthetic but feel percussive without resembling
drums at all.

The most noteworthy thing about Protogravity is just
how, well, normal it sounds. For each artist’s own tendency to mangle
rhythm and subvert expectations by dropping beats, changing time
signatures, or otherwise disorienting the flow, at least two of the three cuts of
Protogravity seem surprisingly conventional. “Cuica Digitales,”
for instance, has an almost completely regular meter, looping just as one
might expect it to. However, the duo have focused attention as much
as bending synth voice pads as on a tamer version of their rhythmic
tendencies; it’s the multivoice prolonged bend at the back half of
“Cuica Digitales” that really makes it work. The lead title track
that kicks things off is almost eleven minutes of irregular layers of
rhythm that somehow have the net effect of feeling more regular than
it really is. To my ears, this lends itself way more to dancefloors
than anything from either artist before, but surely mainly for the
more adventurous DJ. The track has Errorsmith’s usual slow flanging mutation spread over Fell’s stabs of metallic sound, reverberating slightly while a
droning chord hangs in the air, somehow grounding the sounds around
it. The duo save perhaps the more expected treatment for last:
“Atomic #80” has all of the jerky weirdness that characterizes
most of both artists’ solo work, but it feels in line with the other
two cuts. When it comes on, I realize just how unexpectedly nice it
is to hear the two tame their more fidgety tendencies to create
something more regular and grounded, even if it lacks the bizarre
intensity of Fell’s collaborations with Gabor Lazár earlier this
year. Each artist has spent plenty of time circling the outermost
periphery of dance music, and so to hear them dip their toes in the
pool of convention without watering down their own signature styles
is satisfying in an odd way.

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