Review: Black Hat – Spectral Disorder EP


(CD, Debacle Records, 2012)

Damn that Debacle Records, do these guys ever stop? Every now and then I keep coming back to this Seattle label, who keep to blow my mind every few months with a release completely different in style than one another (few labels have the guts to release a minimal techno album next to a primitive folk one, and that’s just a small selection of head-spinning list of genres and styles Debacle have dabbled in). Either Debacle Records is some sort of “trend radar” that picks up musicians that push the envelope in order to analyze the next coming sensation or the guys (or gals) there have some sort of a sixth sense that allows them to choose the winning formula – the selection of finest out-of-the-box new sounds that land on the psychedelic scene.

Seattle’s resident Nelson Bean makes yet another addition to the noise-infused “mutant techno” movement with his interesting debut “Spectral Disorder” EP.¬†Introduced by the cold and minimalistic over-oscillating glacial beats by the opening track, “#00000”, Black Hat welcomes us into the world of haunted ambient reverb, very economical, technoid beats and melodies reduced to a bare minimum, meant to keep some absolutely basic level of structure. Allusions to Andy Stott and the catalog of Modern Love label keep getting thrown around, and for a good reason: the music of Black Hat is similarly deep and spiritual in nature, with deep, spacious atmosphere of “Northwest Passage” augumented with sounds small bells moved by arctic wind and eched synth noise reflecting the sounds reverberating in caverns and between the barren rocks.

“Spectral Disorder” may be pigeonholed as ambient techno, but it’s definitely more ambient than techno: cold, heavily textural drones and an almost suffocating atmosphere worthy of dark ambient and industrial champions is in front, with the beatless parts often taking majority of the tracks, the beats, when they finally come are austere and unwelcoming, not for prompting any sort of a dance, but to divide the endless noisescapes into fragments, to put the amorphous mass of sound into time frames in an attempt to civlize the beast of abrasive patches and fried oscillations. There is a sense of familar melody once in a while, but radically processed and deconstructed to the point where it sounds like a radical remix of something you know, but the source of what has been lost in translation – this is especially evident in the brutal digital ping-pong of the title track. The debut EP by Black Hat is torn between the formless noise territory and the experimental techno proving grounds. Nelson Bean stands at the crossroads, and his future releases will show which direction he takes.


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