Cornish ex-pat serves up scintillating techno bangers
Upon discovering that Ansome is a former resident of Cornwall, and then hearing the unrestrained hooligan acid techno he produces, the thought that one Richard James had found yet another outlet for his prolific outpourings certainly crossed our minds.
Especially when it transpires that the album’s second track ‘Blackwater’ appears to have been constructed from a very similar sound palate to the one that Aphex Twin used for his ‘Analogue Bubblebath’ EPs. However, while fans of the great windowlicker himself will find lots of common ground between these two Cornish exports, closer inspection reveals Ansome – or rather South London-based Kieran Whitefield – is very much his own person with a unique style all of his own.
As is entirely sensible in these days of file sharing and streaming, Ansome has been busy building himself a reputation as a live act, a fact that shines through clearly in the recordings captured here on his debut album. They are big on energy and more often than not driven by brutal four-to-the-floor kick drums (see Jeff Mills, Surgeon, Robert Hood et al), and embellished by a gnarly, angst-ridden acid aesthetic that is thrilling in its couldn’t-give-a-fuck ttattitude.
That said, two of the album’s most scintillating moments come from the rare divergences from that techno path. Opening track ‘Chemical Kenny’ starts with horror movie-type ambient suspense, before hauling itself into a slow motion groove augmented by dislocated radio voices and shifting clouds of white noise. ‘Black Alley Sally’ is another of his more experimental forays and sounds like it was made almost entirely from anvils and radioactive waste. The simple one-note sub-bass is given loads of sonic space to expand and contract, lending it all a terrifyingly claustrophobic air of menace. Easy listening it’s not, but original and uncompromising certainly.
The main meat of ‘Stowaway’ is what the press release aptly dubs “5am club rippers”, those techno workouts that will bash your brains out given half a chance. ‘Poldark’, no doubt a nod to his roots in the South West, could be a distant relation of Aphex’s classic ‘Quoth’, almost industrial but dispatched with enough sense of timing, drama and evil funkiness as it continually builds up and breaks down, to escape that tag. Likewise, ‘The Pain Train’ sounds like the snotty-nosed grandson of ‘It’s Grim Up North’ by The KLF’s early incarnation The JAMMs, the pummeling bass drum onslaught topped off nastily by eerie voices seemingly from the depths of hell. ‘Grave Digger Figure’, meanwhile, starts with screaming feedback and equally haunted, satanic mutterings, building up to a moment of impact halfway through when the kick drums break in and wreak inevitable havoc.
At a time when much of techno’s old guard is aiming for more tasteful, artistic expressions of the culture – and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t – there’s something refreshing about the joy that Whitefield seems to take in this kickass techno punk revolution. A sense of grimy, dirty fun that comes across in every ragged, distorted note and searing sonic scorch on ‘Stowaway’. More power to his elbow.