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Suum Cuique

Ascetic Ideals

[Modern Love; 2012]

By ; August 14, 2012 

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

Demdike Stare is having a moment. This UK duo whips up a very en vogue blend of dank, dark ambiance and distant, decimated techno. They’ve been going steady since 2009, and not just as a unit. In fact, I’m pretty sure I like the 2010 debut release from Miles Whittaker’s side project Suum Cuique more than anything Demdike put out that year. Only six tracks, but it’s a hell of an album. Gaping chasms of synthetic nothingness, hellish circuit-breaking and soundwave-bending transmissions from a dusty abandoned archive beneath the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, that sort of thing. It’s all very Eleh, admirably minimalist yet actually engaging.

If memory serves, the person behind Suum Cuique was originally unknown. Regardless of whether this was actually true or Boomkat was just bullshitting us again, the debut did have an undeniable air of anonymity. It didn’t sound like it wanted to be found out. It sounded like the kind of thing recorded in disbelief on some long-lost cassette player and whispered about for a while as a plausible enough Soviet urban legend until finally being debunked by Snopes, not a ZIP file sent to some underground label head’s attention.

So now, two years and two Pitchfork reviews later, Whittaker has delivered his followup Suum Cuique statement, Ascetic Ideals. There’s something unsettling about the album’s presentation, namely the unexpectedly weighty title coupled with the unadorned shot of what looks like a unanimously feminine yet strikingly unsexualized group of trainees at some early 90s call center. Is inscrutability the new anonymity? Was there ever a difference?

The music is just as staunchly analog and desolate this time around, but there’s also a vivacious malevolence simmering behind all the noise. “Kuiper Anomaly” most clearly recalls Whittaker’s minimal techno background but slows down the rhythm to veritably glacial levels. “Core Value” is a different kind of downtempo whose beats sound like underwater gunshots. “Atlas Levels” is downright otherworldly, a creature from the fiery lagoon attempting to communicate through a sore throat. And closer “Dionysus Decay” is palpably angrier than anything we’ve heard from Suum Cuique before.

Ascetic Ideals isn’t nearly as effortless as its predecessor; these sounds feel self-consciously arranged in a way they simply didn’t last time, perhaps an inevitable result of being put together during the recording process for the big ol’ Demdike Elemental album (which we reviewed earlier this year). Regardless, Whittaker knows his synth-drone-noise-whatever, so if you’re into this sort of thing—or if you ever wished you could do shrooms with Eliane Radigue—then you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.


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