Provocative and abrasive, yet fascinated with the possibilities and physicality of electronic sound, Russell Haswell has assembled a formidable body of work over two decades, taking in (among other things) digital noise recordings, experiments in immersive surround sound and an acclaimed series of collaborations with Florian Hecker.
Titled 37 Minute Workout, Haswell's album for Diagonal is the label's second full-length album release, following on from Death Comet Crew's recent Ghost Among The Crew. It's the latest instalment in an ongoing run of prolific and powerful form from Haswell, and follows on from his crushing live set at Diagonal's first London showcase last year. But it also marks a slight shift in his work. Although having long been inspired by Detroit techno pioneers like Jeff Mills and having DJ'd and curated many club events over the years, defined beats have rarely been a core feature in Haswell's tracks. Following last year's noise-wracked dancefloor collaboration with Regis as Concrete Fence, sections of 37 Minute Workout are overtly rhythm driven, in keeping with the label’s ‘club music’ ethos — their strobing beats and interference suggesting techno torn to bloody shreds before being reassembled in chaotic new configurations.
The album's title, although in part a nod to Paul Morley once stating that the perfect album length was 37 minutes, also alludes to this strenuously physical nature. Opener 'Spring Break Extended' springs from the tracks in a salvo of rough-hewn breakbeats, peaking nastily in the red to bleach out your field of hearing. Paired tracks 'Unknown Harm' and 'Incalculable Harm' are all acute angles and jarring changes in direction; dragging your body violently back and forth, they repeatedly tease you with the momentary promise of a groove before gleefully ripping it away. And 'Alternate Ways To The Truth' suggests a strange, psychologically penetrative electro, its clusters of kicks seeming to emanate from deep inside your inner ear.
37 Minute Workout is among Haswell's most varied albums to date, finding him nodding — sometimes overtly, sometimes less so — towards the many influences that have worked their way into his music. The eerie 'Chaos Clapping' and its reprise, which bridge the record's two sides, are subtle homages to Steve Reich, while 'In Memorium Of Elph' is an ode to Coil and their 1990s explorations of digital glitch. He also cites the album as being informed by the work of contemporaries that have inspired him over the years, ranging from Skinny Puppy and Adrian Sherwood to Autechre, Aphex Twin and British extreme music pioneers Carcass and Napalm Death.
If the presence of these musical connections isn't necessarily overt within Haswell's work — as ever, 37 Minute Workout is rendered in his own distinctly caustic and intricate sonic language — what shines through is a shared uncompromising streak and a joy in being overwhelmed by sound. The album's second half trips into abstract and divergent territory: the splattery overloads of 'Scratchy' and 'Scratchy (Freeze Dub)', and 'Blast Beats' all staggered grinds and high pitched whine. Yet it ends, perhaps surprisingly, on an entirely more contemplative note. The two minute drone of 'Convalescence' brings 37 Minute Workout full circle, offering a brief moment of decompression to close an album whose broad range encapsulates many avenues of Haswell's work to date, and hints towards many more in future.
released February 24, 2014
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