Former Sandwell District mainstay Silent Servant (a.k.a. Juan Mendez) offers a headlong exploration of twisted, mutated techno that juggles post-punk and industrial aesthetics within his debut long-player for Hospital Productions, Negative Fascination.
Paced at only thirty-six minutes across seven tracks, Negative Fascination comes with an immediate sense of urgency. After the beatless, reverberating pulsations of ‘Process (Introduction)’ the album begins in earnest, as ‘Invocation of Lust’ begins to build hurriedly towards some kind of endgame. Save for the brooding (and contrastingly melodic) interlude of ‘Moral Divide (Endless),’ Mendez directs listeners to the crux of proceedings in the form of ‘The Strange Attractor.’ Harshly pulsing chords develop pace beneath a sonorous blanket of searing white noise, a visceral and intense portrayal of what Mendez described in a recent interview with FACT magazine as "this weird mutation in my head."
Negative Fascination LP - Silent Servant [Hospital Productions]
Following on, ‘Temptation & Desire’ again ups the ante in terms of pace. A refined death-march drumbeat thumps out alongside the pained wails of wordless voices as an austere synth line furthers the albums sense of dystopian bleakness. After another intermission in the form of ‘A Path Eternal’ comes the eight-minute crescendo of ‘Utopian Disaster (End)’. Within this track, Mendez comes closest to the spacey, echoed dub-techno forms to which he is perhaps most famously associated. Here, a Basic Channel style bass line rumbles languorously towards a final gritty, spiraling groan.
Though generally the tone of the album is dripping in Lynchian austerity, there is much to like about Negative Fascination. In spite of its relatively short duration, throughout the LP there is a definite sense of both direction and coherence. Additionally, the album is coupled with a specific visual-aesthetic as the grainy, shadowy images that accompany the record align perfectly to its aural content. Mendez himself appears to recognise the importance of marrying the musical to the visual with the promise that a special, limited press is due to be released each with its own hand-labeled switchblade.
In similar ways to its post-punk influences, Negative Fascination wastes no time in presenting stunted, invasive sonic outbursts. In truth, much of what is covered within the LP will be familiar to fans of Mendez or any of the acts to which he has become associated. Yet in spite of this, the record feels entirely worthwhile for the way Mendez refines and condenses his raw, uncompromising techno sensibilities into a package that bulges heatedly at the seams. Overall, the album feels like an exercise in controlled aggression – as though holistically, Mendez’s vision teeters delicately upon the edge of the switchblade that adorns the albums cover.
Negative Fascination is available now from Juno.