Heavy Dutch techno to exercise your grey cells courtesy of the Dave Clarke protégé
Even for those who have an enduring love of techno, the prospect of a full-length album of the stuff often evokes feelings of trepidation as readily as it does excitement. Many of the most talented of DJ-producers, able to hold a packed dancefloor in the palm of their hand with speaker-destroying club hits as easily as making breakfast, have come a cropper when trying to translate their talents into the long-form format.
Dutchman Mr Jones – aka the marvellously named Jonas Uittenbosch – is the latest new pretender looking to buck the trend. He’s gained the requisite underground buzz as well as an endorsement from Dave Clarke, that most pernickety member of the old guard, who was so impressed with his oeuvre that he’s collaborated with him on several remixes and one-off tracks under the Unsubscribe moniker. So expectations for ‘Sounds For The Mute’ are high.
Starting with a creeping, necrotising hum of a synthesiser so low you’ll think the stereo’s broken, it’s not long before we’re hurtling full throttle into ‘Reversible’, a pummelling, no nonsense stomper that makes you feel like you’re falling through a time vortex while being beaten about the face with a large brick. It’s bracing gear – taut, smart and propulsive.
Enjoyable sure, but so far, so standard. It’s not until the quite startling ‘The Truth About Robots’ arrives that you stand up and take notice. Centred around a mind-scrambling vocal loop, Uittenbosch takes techno’s penchant for repetition to the extreme, the sample decaying and degenerating over an ever more fragmented and interlocking set of drum patterns. The result is the kind of perplexing psychedelic storm that marks out the very best of the genre as truly boundary pushing music, rather than the formulaic cul-de-sac it can so often seem.
While nothing else here quite matches that, the second half of the album continues to draw out some of the same themes of rhythm, alienation and the conundrum of man’s increasingly symbiotic relationship with technology. These ideas are as old as techno itself, of course, but Uittenbosch manages to make them sound fresh and thrilling in a way that’s surprising. ’Til It’s Done’ and ‘Us Vs Them’ show an equally adept take on the dronier, bleepier end of things, before ‘Continuous Sounds’ finishes the set off with a more traditional approach to the whole enterprise.
Clocking in at a relatively restrained 52 minutes, ‘Sounds For The Mute’ is in no danger of troubling the pop charts, and if you’ve always hated techno this release is not going to change your mind. However, it would be a shame if Mr Jones remained solely in the techno ghetto, as what he has produced here is an intelligent, carefully crafted and compelling record, fusing bombastic dancefloor nous with real ambition.