Friday, July 31, 2009

Mercury - Somatic Responses


Somatic Responses
Acroplane Records.

SCQ Rating: 75%

Mere months ago, Somatic Responses impressed me with their Reformation record (available at the awesome Ad Noiseam), the title track of which was so thunderous and elastic, I could hardly keep my bearings about me. No sooner had I familiarized myself with the backstory of the duo, consisting of John and Paul Healy, when Acroplane announced a second new Somatic Responses album available for free right here. Now there’s a time to ponder and a time to act, and I wasted no time downloading Mercury; a record so fiendishly subterranean and claustrophobic, I required a solid month to simply absorb its shadows.

Like its inhospitable namesake, Mercury is an uncertain venture; its bass-stabs menacing and beat-programming often intimidating, as if you’ve awoken upon a nightmarishly bleak terrain. Furthering my intergalactic descriptors is first track ‘Dead Star’, a pulsating shuffle of deep bass and unsettled synths that establishes a sinister demeanor that runs throughout Mercury. Somatic Responses’ expertise in breakcore runs through tracks like ‘Hatework’ and the apt-titled ‘Erratic’ but this second release of 2009 holds greater ambition than polishing old trophies. As boldly announced on the stuttering ‘Shinjuku Walk’, Mercury is the duo’s first dedicated foray into dub-step; a murky, urban subgenre that fits Somatic Responses like London raindrops on the window of a late-night taxi. Of course, since this is dub-step flooded with dark ambience, the results are as danceable as they are unnerving. ‘Subdared’ sounds like an old FM dial-spin of half-heard drones and archaic beats while ‘Mutated Virus’ is a suitably mixed experiment of breakcore urges and dub-step flavour; each capable of filling the gaps of your own post-apocalyptic soundtrack.

In light of such urgent, progressive soundscapes, it’s thrilling to hear the Healy brothers close Mercury with the slowly unfurling ‘Ulrich Would Be Proud’. Centered around a solid breakbeat and armed with graceful swellings of synth, this closer is a dark yet soothing farewell to an album of intriguing hostilities (that at least one Ulrich – Ulrich Schnauss – would be proud of). As an introduction to Somatic Responses’ work, Mercury is a tall order indeed; an uncompromising and gloomy song-suite that burrows under your skin. Yet, as I plan to retreat into their back-catalogue, I can’t help but wonder if anything will rival this hard-earned collection. Consider this: if Mercury is being given away, imagine how good their retail-only albums likely are.

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