Huerco S. - Colonial Patterns

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8 Release Date:2013-09-23

The key dichotomy of electronic music is the relationship between human and technology. We've all heard the old clichéd criticism thrown at laptop based musicians, and its one that was thrown at the earliest dabblers with synthesizers, namely that it's music made by machines not people. This is, of course, an assertion based on ignorance of electronic music. Even the most free-form experiments on modular synths are not completely slave to the whims of machines; the human is still crucial.

Huerco S, (aka Brian Leeds) debut full length, Colonial Patterns, engages in this age-old discussion in a refreshingly pure way. The whole album sounds like a man wrestling music from machines, sculpting their idiosyncrasies into musical forms. 'Wrestling' is the key word. Right from the opening track, 'Struck with Deer Lungs', the album constantly sounds on the verge of pulling itself apart. Oscillating chords sound nervous and edgy, like Leeds is fighting to keep everything in time. Similarly with 'Inzhiid', hi-hats enter the mix alongside the warm tremolo pads, sounding like they are racing to keep up with the restless momentum of the track.

At its core, this is a leftfield take on house and techno. An obvious point of comparison is Actress' stunning album from last year, RIP. However, whereas that album or the likes of Burial use grainy production and warm crackling samples to create a sense of humanistic nostalgia around their ultra-slick arrangements, Leeds' music is routed in a playful use of old technology.

Third track 'Quivira' has brittle, tinny sounding percussion that gives it a strange decaying beauty. Throughout the album, a small collection of sounds and textures are chopped and manipulated into a variety of different impressions. From the mellow beauty of 'Monks Mound (Arcology)' to the almost kitsch-sounding vocal samples and keyboard flourishes of 'Ragtime U.S.A. (Warning)'. The press release describes the album as a tribute to Leeds' native Kansas, and it excels at reflecting the oddball eclectism of a modern city.

Unlike a lot of modern producers, Huerco S has made no attempt to disguise the fact that this is music made on synths, sequencers and drum machines. It celebrates the clumsy relationship between humans and technology with loose, glitchy, ragged arrangements. It's by no means retro-sounding though - it sits quite comfortably alongside the likes of Four Tet or the previously mentioned Actress in its ambition and broad scope. It doesn't necessarily break any new ground, as much as look at electronic music from a slightly skewed angle.

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