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11 January 2018

Perc:
Bitter Music (Perc Trax)

Ali
Wells has been cultivating his own ruthless techno sound for some
time now, whether through Perc, his primary project, or his label,
Perc Trax, wherein a variety of kindred spirits find a home. Perc’s
techno tends to exude a raw power, often eschewing melody or
basslines altogether for a more purely rhythmic workout, all thick,
deep low-end kick and syncopated sounds that all lock in step. But as
a full album, Bitter Music finds Perc branching outward, in many
cases with the obvious techno underpinnings absent altogether. “Wax
Apple,” for instance, is built around sonic detritus and haphazard
piano strikes, veering far away from the dancefloor. Along those same
lines, opening cut “Exit” is a curveball of an opener (its title
included) that heaves and drones with no real rhythm section at all.
Fans of hard techno need worry not, though; Bitter Music has plenty
of his characteristically furious techno to please his fans. It
doesn’t get more obviously timely than “Unelected,” whose
pounding kick and distant atonal stabs lend it a bleakness that feels
more urgent than the brasher and cheekier sounds of his preceding
album The Power and the Glory. For those for whom a pummeling 4/4
kick isn’t enough to tap into rage, there’s always “Spit,” a
downright uncomfortable track with incoherent shrieked vocals
courtesy of Aja Ireland, sort of like Adult. gone full tilt panic
attack. It captures the desperation that Bitter Music seems keen on
channeling, but it’s almost always a track I skip; to each their own (incidentally, reviews from fans on Bandcamp seem to point toward this cut being a fan favorite).
But most of Bitter Music is stronger, with “Chatter” and
“Rat Run” splitting the difference between more unusual cut-ups
and Perc’s usual dancefloor toughness.

Bitter Music by Perc

“I Just Can’t Win” might
be a sounding off to the haters or pundits who
pontificate with opinions about his music (the irony is not lost on me). To close it out, he uses a
clip of artist Peter Blake talking about responses to his collages:
“Why’d you stick the things on, why didn’t you paint them? And then
I do paint them, they say, “Why did you bother to paint them, why
didn’t you just stick ‘em on?” This
damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario seems parallel to the
tone of the album, tapping into something leaner and meaner than some
of his other recent releases. “Look What Your Love Has Done To Me”
is another collaboration, featuring vocals from Brighton’s Gazelle
Twin (whose own Kingdom Come was just recently released), and their
collaboration feels like a solid match to me, her spoken, detuned,
and modulated voice punctuated by punchy metallic stabs and a thick,
hard kick drum. What it lacks in surprises it makes up for in being
furiously taut and streamlined. Overall it’s one of my favorite
releases from Perc to date, feeling somewhat liberated from the
trappings of techno while still showing off how good he is at it, a
balancing act that can be difficult to pull off. As with so many other
quality releases from Wells, Bitter Music is a timely response to a
burning world, alternating between fury and something more sullen and
introspective.

Buy it: Bandcamp

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