Gross, creepy psuedo-techno, vaguely frightening, sure to give raver kids the worst trip of their lives. Reminds me of John Carpenter soundtrack work. And then right in the middle there's 'Special long Version' with Sue Tompkins' sweet, naive, adorable vocals that brings this stunning beauty in the middle of this uncomfortable weirdness. Great stuff.
Favorite track: Special Long Version (Demo) feat. Sue Tompkins.
Russell Haswell returns to Diagonal with a new five-track mini-album called Respondent. Not quite an EP nor long enough for a full album, this record marks a significant shift in direction for Haswell, who collaborates with a vocalist, Sue Tompkins, for the first time in a career defined by its unorthodoxy that now stretches some 27
Known for his bold and capricious approach to sound and performance, Haswell is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary artists whose influence reaches far and wide. His uncompromising work has appeared on labels such as Warp, Warner Classics, Downwards and Editions Mego and he has curated shows for galleries including New
York’s PS1/MoMA and TBA 21 in Vienna. It would probably be quicker to list the notable figures Haswell has not been associated with than those he has. The Serpentine Gallery’s ‘curator who never sleeps’, Hans-Ulrich Obrist labelled Haswell “a National Treasure.”
More recently, on his key releases for Diagonal, 2014’s 37 Minute Workout and 2015’s As Sure As Night Follows Day, Haswell applied rave dynamics to modular synthesis to fashion playfully idiosyncratic tracks that thrill and confound in equal measure. He doesn’t set out to be liked – “hate is a good energy,” he says – and nor does he consider himself a musician. “If I learned anything from the art world, it’s that I want to polarise people,” he says. “What I’m trying to produce, I don’t expect anyone to like it. I’ve had so many years of people saying this is shit, fuck you, throwing bottles at me, pulling leads out or shutting my laptop, even pulling a gun on me in Chicago – it’s all part of the story.”
Having long been affiliated with luminaries such as Aphex Twin, Autechre, Mika Vainio, and Paul Smith of Blast First, Haswell has never been one to sentimentalise his work – he has a huge appetite for disruption and for improvement, for trying to make things better, as he might put it. Curiously then, Respondent finds him looking back, for once, to his teenage years, and reflecting on that period of discovery when he first came across the bands and records and labels – the culture – that would come to shape him.
Growing up in Coventry in the mid-1980s, he’d listen to John Peel and, during his paper round, would flick through the NME and gradually work out that the adverts with the most interesting graphic design usually promised the most interesting music. In this way he discovered 4AD, Factory and Mute, while on trips to the local lending library with his mum he’d usually end up leafing through the records and listening to his finds. Here, aged 11, he discovered Xenakis (“because it was under X”), Cabaret Voltaire and DAF, and at home would devour The Tube and Top of the Pops and whichever sci-fi films and shows were on TV. During his teens he developed an uncannily sharp sense of aesthetics which has held him in good stead ever since.
Haswell says Respondent is influenced by these formative years when he was exposed to new sounds and ideas but lacked the ability and equipment needed to express himself. “In a way I’m regressing, but I’m not trying to regress with the music,” he says. “What I’m trying to do is think about how I felt and the energy and what this stuff communicated to me.”
Respondent’s juiciest cut is “Special Long Version (Demo) Feat. Sue Tompkins”. One second shy of 10 minutes, this is Haswell’s definition of house music. Taking cues from vintage Chicago tracks such as “Your Love” by Frankie Knuckles, Muff Man’s “Sit On the Face” and Maurice Joshua’s “I Gotta Big Dick”, Haswell forces their essence through his
filters, distilling the sexual energy to a crude groove, while Tompkins, a Glasgow-based artist formerly of the band Life Without Buildings, talks, shouts and sings, her voice distorted and dulcet. “I want your love,” she says at one point.
“Let Suffering Become You” is a mangled acid stomp that starts with a sample from the 1980 punk documentary D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage, with Guinness heir Jonathan Guinness haughtily observing: “An awful lot of people who enjoy punk would really like to be back in those days when they could actually see physical people hacking each
other to death.” Elsewhere, “First In Man” is a cavernous dub speckled track, with spasmodic lasers, dedicated to Diagonal co-founder Jaimie Williams.
Haswell has chosen to release this material as a mini-album because he considers it an “underused format”, citing as a classic example New Order’s merger of their two early singles “Everything’s Gone Green” and “Temptation” on to one five-track 12-inch, titled “1981-1982”, for the US market.
He views this release as a stepping stone to his next project, an album featuring a number of guests. So don’t rule out that Kylie collaboration just yet.
released February 2, 2018
Recorded & Produced & Edited sporadically by Russell Haswell late 2016 - early 2017 in London.
All trks published by mute song (Haswell), except B4 mute song/copyright control (Haswell/Tompkins).
Thanks = Ae, ALM/Busy Circuits, Bocian, Consumer Electronics, Diagonal Records, DJ STINGRAY, Lee Dorrian, Sam Dunn, Andrew Duff, Sylvie Fleury, Bruce Gilbert, Mathias Gmachl, PAIN JERK, Jeremy Johnson, Sarah Lucas & Julian Simmons, M.A.S.F., SLEAFORD MODS, Karl O'Connor, Oscar Powell, Peter Rehberg, Richard Rhys, James Ruskin, HARBINGER SOUND, Sue Tompkins, Jaime Williams, Leah Wilson ...