Techno’s arch, dark alchemist Juan Mendez rolls out a powerful 2nd Silent Servant album with ‘Shadows of Death and Desire’ , arriving some six years after his ‘Negative Fascination’ side triggered a sea-change toward EBM and gothic sonics in a way that’s never been felt more strongly. The album also features the unlikely reappearance of longtime collaborator and vocalist Camella Lobo of Tropic of Cancer.
Over the past two decades the storied, L.A.-based producer has made his presence felt both by stealth and frequency. From his earliest work on LA’s Cytrax thru his pivotal role on early Tropic of Cancer releases and as recording and visual artist with Sandwell District, then later as the go-to-guy for fusions of post-punk, industrial, EBM and techno with DJ sets and releases as Silent Servant, Juan Mendez’s myriad efforts have inarguably exerted an enormous influence over contemporary techno and dark electronics.
With his sophomore album Silent Servant presents an affirmation of his prowess with properly physical effect, wielding some of the most strapping arps, possessed vox and moody pads in his catalogue. In contrast with ‘Negative Fascination’, its influential predecessor, the seven tracks of ‘Shadows of Death and Desire’ are defined by a toothier drive and bite, moving with shark-like momentum thru ruggedest club functions while allowing little room for anything like beat-less reflection or downtime.
Locking in with ‘Illusion’, he pursues singular, writhing permutations of EBM, industrial and post punk moods; taking in slathering highlights with the agitated bruxism of ‘Harm In Hand’ and the rotor-jawed syncopation of ‘Damage’, along with the trampling drone-dirge of ‘Loss Response’, and the needling panic attack dynamic of ’24 Hours’, before drifting off centre with the glorious, swingeing torque of ‘Glass Veil’, and a swooning goth finale in ‘Optimistic Decay’ which sees mendez reunite with longtime collaborator and vocalist Camella Lobo.
Exquisitely rendered in-the-mix by Joshua Eustis, we can practically guarantee that if you fell for the first album, this one will push your buttons hard, too.
Freakish footwork/computer music abstraction from rhythmatician Jlin and her new conceptual spar, Holly Herndon
‘Godmother’ is the first sign of (artificial) life from the duo, starring the debut of Spawn, their AI offspring. Sonically, we can hear Jlin’s unique torque reduced to a flicker, while Herndon astringently applies her recent research into the unique properties of the voice, with results recalling a funkier take on recent Florian Hecker vocal studies. It’s arguably best heard when synched to the fluctuating visual aspect in their accompanying promo video.
Ireland’s Lighght serves the best we’ve yet heard on Dream Catalogue with the brain-spanking convolutions of ‘The Skin Falls Off The Body’
Apparently discovered by the London-based internet cult/label via the ‘Lila Tirando A Violeta’ fundraising comp, Lighght makes a complex, tumultuous racket inspired by his personal dread - “an existential cocktail of hypochondria and anxiety” - that lives up to comparison with music by AFX, Æ and Dalglish.
Manny man Grizzle fuses heat-seeking R&G and below-kelvin Drill styles on his debut missile ‘Quinine’ for the city’s strongest grime label/club night; Chow Down
After previously sharpening his teef in collaboration on the ‘Fallow & Grizzle’ EP, Grizzle works the energy levels from low-key, slunky up to outright ecstatic and back again across 4 original productions.
‘Plasma’ tempers trilling 808s and hyperdiva vox in a wavey R&G burner, while ‘Loosed’ initially goes weightless, then calves off into full sunk subs and reversed loops with a rugged, futurist sort of psychedelic intensity native to UK and US club styles.
However, it’s likely that the title cut, with its ohrwurm motifs and bittersweet, bolshy lean is destined for widest reach, while ‘Gauntlet’ scans glowing new horizons of tranced-out grime with an expert grasp of pressure control.