Reviewed by Jess Harvell (www.pitchforkmedia.com)
Though you wouldn't know it to listen to bulk of Pro Agonist, Exile is a junglist. He has releases on some of the genre's biggest and most seminal labels, including Moving Shadow, Renegade Hardware, and John B's Beta. He is as comfortable with rigid electro-steppers as breakneck break splicing and drooling drumfunk. The first track, "Silicon Chop", is a collaboration between Exile and Sub Focus, currently the king of peak-time super-rave drum & bass via his releases on Ram like "X-Ray".
But, as with many English techheads who prefer the bucolic splendor of the Midlands, he's also something of a rotter. Pro Agonist, for example, is on Mike "U-Ziq" Paradinas' Planet Mu label. Despite being home to the collected works of jungle god Remarc, the label's concept of jungle owes much to the Squarepusher tempo tantrum school. And though his tunes often do feature a traditional junglist structure-- intro/drop/breakdown/drop/outro-- Exile can't resist corroding that framework with digital abuse.
The aforementioned "Silicon Chop" and "Open Mike" imagine a tentative bridgehead between big-room drum & bass and the micro-intensities of the Inperspective Records choppage scene. "Silicon Chop" takes a fat, cheesy synth hook aimed straight at the teenage raver as the eye of its hurricane of metallic, scuttling bongos, phased snares, and ants-in-your-pants drum bits. "The Forever Endeavor" stomps like gabba, shoots random bursts of breaks into the air, and gouges you with cattle prod synth surges. "Sure You Did" samples a few of his pals' incredulity at his own fucked up beats in true Aphexian fashion. And that's where things take a bit of a wrong turn.
"Mushroom Santa" features an excessively twee "childlike" melody married to shrill, chipper drill & bass beats that even the biggest spunk jazz apologist would have to call a joke. (And even if it is, I still ended up skipping it from the second play on.) "Spring Cum Air" is slightly better with its Selected Ambient Works II atmosphere and flurries of computer pings and plucks, as if Derek Bailey suddenly took up a iBook. His remix of John B's "Broken Language" sounds like eight different drum & bass tunes sutured messily together on the fly with a pocket knife and some cinnamon dental floss.
"The Devil's Chimney"-- with creepy "the devil is in exile" sample followed by an avalanche of EQ'd-to-fuck "Amen" snares and gothic rave stabs-- is straight forward enough for one of the more brutalist neo-techstep labels. It makes me sound like an old disco grouch to prefer this to the more "my jazz is useless" pervert-o glitch like "Rage Is The Beautiful Light That Struck Her". (Oy, those titles.) I guess I had been hoping for more tunes like "Silicon Chop" and his excellent 2005 single "Cut By Plastic". Records that sprouted unsightly moles and hair in odd places but were still recognizably drum & bass. Instead I got that plus a side of ProTools fuzz and kooky samples about chiming penises. If that's more your thing, you can look at is as getting a side of a few really forward-thinking dance tunes. And then wash that beard.
- Last Step - You're A Nice Girl
- Dolphin & The Teknoist - Soul Cannibal / Closing Down
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol V
- Kyler - Pur Cosy Tales
- Hellfish - One Man Sonic Attack Force
- Virus Syndicate - The Work-Related Illness
- Virus Syndicate - Slow Down
- Shitmat - The Lesser Spotted Burberry EP
- Bizzy B - Science EP Volumes III + IV
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol IV
- Exile - Pro Agonist
- Vex'd - Degenerate
- Vex'd - Gunman
- John B & Exile - Broken Language
- Mark One - One Way
- Venetian Snares & Bong-Ra - 4 Adaptations Of Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
- Venetian Snares - Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
- Ed Lawes - 14 Tracks/Pieces
- Eight Frozen Modules - DJ, Riddim & Source E.P.
- dDamage - Pressure
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol III
- Hawerchuk - Camel Toe
- Shitmat - Full English Breakfest