In another burst of technically minded destructiveness, Sorin Paun (Randomform / Datacrashrobot) has rebirthed himself (in a particularly gruelling scene reminiscent of something cut from Tetsuo for being too extreme) as Separation Device. Reading through the track titles (“Trypanaphobia”, “Blunt Dissection”, “Rib Spreader”) you might be forgiven for thinking this is some sort of digital grindcore album but it is his own take on drum’n’bass via Skynet and The Matrix.
Drum’n’bass is very close to my heart (despite being almost meaningless to most people and being horribly corrupted in it’s modern form) because between that and Techno I was dragged from the 80’s into the modern world, musically speaking. I had never heard music so breathtakingly futuristic that performed its stated purpose so well; to make people dance. For 5 years or so I spent as much time and money as I could in nightclubs, ignoring the other people and focusing on totally new concepts like sub-bass and strobe lights / dry-ice interaction. Luckily for me I was there for what is now commonly referred to as “the golden age” of drum’n’bass with Roni Size, DJ Die, Aphrodite, Dillinja, Lemon D etc etc. It seemed like there was no end to the different permutations people could put on an amen sample, sub bass line and samples from sci-fi films. But much the same as Techno things started to get stale as the market got crowded, with people taking weeks to put together formulaic approximations of music that had developed over many years, with increasingly ubiquitous software. Fast forward to 2013 and essentially I know nothing about what is happening in drum’n’bass because I have no interest in following the tedious careers of Pendulous, Chase and Status, Rudimental ….yawn. The last thing I heard that seemed to be credible drum’n’bass was a mix by Pangea which was so brutally minimalist that it reminded me much more of industrial than anything else. I certainly didn’t feel any compulsion to dance to it.
So (laboriously) we arrive at Separation Device (the actual subject of this review). His albums of IDM / electronica were meticulously produced with an ear for nice sounds, my only criticism being that they were intensely technical exercises and so it is with this album, but I actually prefer this to his work as Randomform / Datacrashrobot. The same cold metallic synths and alienating samples are present but underpinning it all is a compulsive ear for rythmn. The breaks and beats are sparse with plenty of space interspersing the snatches of amen and tech step. The bass takes a sideline to glitch and FX but I think it works better for not being ruthlessly tied to the concept of “lets make a bassline that people can dance to”. It may not be instantly recognizable or overtly friendly but it does present a pretty clean break from the stagnant waters of drum’n’bass past while presenting us with some excellent moments like “Synaptic Inputs” which hark back to golden moments like Ed Rush’s “The Raven”.
If most of this article was gibberish to you then I apologise. I’m getting old and this may well qualify as an extended senior moment. Essentially, if you’re partial to a little aggressive darkness in your music occasionally then you won’t find Separation Device disappointing. And if you need to smash up any obsolete electrical devices with a hammer this will provide the perfect soundtrack.