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[Delsin; 2011]

By ; February 2, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

What is it about Conforce’s Escapism that reminds me of recent offerings from British ambient techno label Modern Love? More specifically artists like Andy Stott and Demdike Stare. It’s the distance that dub techno has traveled from Echospace-esque expansiveness still representing strong on albums like Deadbeat’s 2011 LP, Drawn & Quartered, where dub rears its head with a single shimmery chord reverberating from a track’s beginning to end, that’s perhaps the similarity. Its less overt darkness (which Escapism is, for the most part, free of) or crushing weight, and more its patience with an introverted and intimate atmosphere. Escapism is less inclined to dissolve into an abstracted dream logic, letting its synthesized tendrils wander like curious serpents into every nook and cranny, and more apt to pull the shades down and weather the throbbing storm outside.

The album sleeves on Conforce’s last few releases speak to a certain urban disillusionment that finds its way into the music’s minor chord paranoia. The cover of his four track Dystopian Elements EP (of which “Lonely Run” makes an appearance here) stares up the breadth of a few sweaty steel high rise tenements within the negative space of a puzzle piece abstract. Escapism, adversely, stares down upon a blurred metropolis, the focus now on a helmeted Asian city worker ready to jump as we look on from the other side of a window. Escapism is a pretty cynical title slapped next to the image, but if the album’s dystopic textures and song-titles are anything to go by, there’s some weight to the notion.

Conforce knits his deeply compressed low-end into a singular primal force. On tracks like “Lonely Run” or “Within” the bass groove latches onto the kick with such a fierce physical coexistence, it feels as if both have it in for the hooks and arpeggios dancing around its focal point. There’s an alternately inclusive dynamic at play as if the sub-octaves are our vehicle through less-than-navigable terrain as we gaze out at the slowly warping synthesizers and tightly echoing chords. However, Escapism isn’t claustrophobic and unlike an Andy Stott, Conforce keeps his drum loops from swallowing their surroundings even if the kick is more propulsive than most techno acts. It points to a rhythmic focus. A track like the nine-minute “Shadows of the Invisible” finds a perspiring groove in its bassy machine textures as skeletal poly rhythms dot the outer reaches. Most of the high-end arrives in distant, lapping synth melodies working at four whole notes a chord before seeping slowly out of sight to let the syncopated 4/4 simply throb. The contrast gives Escapism‘s minimal tendencies some fraught meaning and palpable color and tension is able to fill the tightly woven negative space. Opener, “Revolt DX” barely makes it out of its syncopated sprawl, its playful, bubbly synths hesitant to tread past a single measure. Snares don’t arrive for two minutes. But by giving the track’s central groove such thickened precedence, Conforce is able to toil meaningfully beneath, even in minute bursts, without exceeding attention spans. The grooves also happen to be very good.


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