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Forward Strategy Group

Labour Division

[Perc Trax; 2012]

By ; June 26, 2012 

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

Last year English producer Ali Wellis, who’s been releasing steel plated minimal techno since the early oos as Perc, and assembling a formidable stable of artists on his eponymous imprint, Perc Trax, released his long-awaited debut album, Wicker & Steele. It’s not like Perc Trax was a nonissue or anything. On the contrary, the label had already risen to become one of UK techno’s most revered, releasing enough material between ’04 and ’09, alone, before its first real full-length to fill a swamped cargo ship. But it was left to Perc with Wicker & Steele to solidify his constituents. Despite a seven year run, the record functions as a retroactive, ore bath mission statement for Perc Trax. The title is significant: soft, aged, and woven yet metallic and unrelenting.

With their Perc Trax debut, Labour Division, English/Scottish duo, Forward Strategy Group, settle in to further calcify the imprint’s now-signatory contrast between industrial-leanings and foggy, fabric-softener atmospherics. The record’s title and grey-woven abstract of an album cover seem to speak toward a spartan, socialist-communistic outlook, but Labour Division is rich with hard-edged 80s synth textures and ravenous, hyper-rythmic industrial tech molds. Opener, “Ident” chugs along a deep staccato, boiler-room bass riff before a glimmering detox synth melody squelches in through the cracks. “Mandate” follows the mostly ambient intro with a gaseous, steam-engine rhythm, an antique snare, and a monstrous deluge of ricocheting machine dub chords like if Deepchord decided to work in the foreground.

Labour Division isn’t as spare or primeval as, say, Forward Strategy Group’s fellow English producer, Shifted, but their sense of phased rhythmic devises is similar. On track’s like “Elegant Mistakes” or “Nihil Novi” where the foremost loop of fermented, percussive textures become hypnotic in their over-combative sense of repetition, it opens up for subtle shifts in the track’s pace. “Elegant Mistakes”‘s opening salvo slowly morphs and devolves until the initial rhythms and intricate polyrhythms have come unhinged from the assaultive, overdriven kick. All the while the duo finesses subtle blanketed atmospherics at the track’s outer regions like softly rippling curtains pushing out daylight.

But Labour Division remains a diverse array of tracks. For as many skeleton-rattle, broken machine-dirge workouts there are, tracks like “Industry & Empire” and “Metal Image” work at the opposite end of the intensity spectrum, settling around a more quietly malevolent, earth-shaking,  and atmospheric 4/4 throb and building its hissing, gunmetal textures up and out like a Sandwell District or any number of artists on the Modern Love roster. “Industry & Empire” is like the stomp of a distant marching army as you sit inside a black room full of empty glass bottles rattling where they sit. Smokestack textures crawl slowly up the track’s walls and sputtering piston details spark in from out of sight. After a neat attention-grabbing run of shorter releases on their own label, Dynamic Reflection, and Perc Trax, Forward Strategy Group deliver a worthy full-length that captures the promise of a new UK techno voice as well as furthers the Perc Trax mythos.


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