Class A wind-up merchant and new beta techno mutant, Powell bends expectations to the fullest with a remarkably emotive, hook-riddled and tumultuous debut album called Sport for the original rave mongrels at XL.
It’s his most detailed, variegated and even vulnerable record to date, and, for the first time in his music, features a handful of original vocals by Jonnine Standish (HTRK), Dale Cornish, Melvin Oliphant III and Loke Rahbek (Damien Dubrovnik, Lust For Youth) which perfectly accentuate and jar with his demented arrangements.
Landing five years since Powell opened his Diagonal account with the bare bones, rictus func of The Ongoing Significance of Steel & Flesh, his debut album fulminates a reactive blend of everything that was there at the start - nods to Suicide’s wiggy MS-20 jabs; the clattering attitude of Big Black; Pan Sonic’s brunt physicality; the jumped-up industrial templates of Liaisons Dangereuses - together with a new found feel for bouts of surprising emotional clarity, skizzy nuance and stupid in-jokes.
We’re not going to say his sound has matured, but he uses the expanded canvas of Sport, which runs to 14 tracks and songs in 46 minutes, to explore a finer range of feels in the album context, from the cochlea-scouring aperitif FiT and the wildly-layered, dissonant expression of Fuck You, Oscar, to an unmistakably sore come-down in Mad Love making poignant use of Loke Rahbek’s disaffected drawl.
In the decimated space between he works like a back alley Frankenstein, harvesting rock and dance music’s distended organs and splicing them into fucked-up instrumentals such as the pint-sloshing bar room brawler Junk and the horny rampage of Her Face, along with some stinging shorts such as Beat 20_194r or Gone a Bit Bendy [NTS Chatroom Version] - we’d love to hear more of these! - which, when held up against the curdled cock rock guitars and pitching vox of Dale Cornish in Do You Rotate? and the coldly sobering monologue in Plastic, portray Powell as one of his generation’s most unhinged characters.
Sport plugs a gap that Powell has identified and made his own, whether you like it or not. Only time will tell, but he’s arguably made an album for the ages; combining post punk’s innovative spirit with an asymmetric inversion of industrial rock’s macho daftness and a sarky twist on techno stoicism, all quite ludicrous yet somehow necessary.