Daniel Avery: Song for Alpha review – majestic, cavernous techno


Between 1992 and 1994, Warp Records released the Artificial Intelligence series of albums. Including key early work by household names in electronica circles – Aphex Twin, Autechre, Richie Hawtin – it was ostensibly home-listening music, all unfolding minor-key melodies, gurgles and washes of sound. But it was also bathed in the afterglow of the rave explosion, much more about bodily pleasure than nerdy detail-spotting.

Lately, the Artificial Intelligence sound has been bubbling up again all over the club world. Belfast duo Bicep, Siberian superstar Nina Kraviz and Berghain’s Ostgut Ton label have all channelled it; now, so is Londoner Daniel Avery. Where his hugely popular 2013 album Drone Logic was about big riffs and forward momentum, its follow-up’s mood feels more like loosened gravity: the acid house 303 synths go round in circles, singing sensuous songs to themselves; diffuse chords hang like clouds of morning mist around the beats, intensely reminiscent of early Aphex and Autechre at their dreamiest.

But this isn’t just 90s nostalgia, and Avery’s week-in-week-out training in seething techno bunkers is still evident. Tracks such as TBW17 and the album’s glowering centrepiece Diminuendo pummel hard. And even when it stretches out and slows down, its structures are based on relentless repetition, not relaxed meandering, and there’s a gothic grandeur to the churchy reverberations that speaks not of genial post-rave relaxation, but of being lost in cavernous Berlin dungeons. The old bodily pleasure is here, but it’s approached in altogether sterner, more serious ways.


Joe Muggs

The GuardianTramp

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