Reviewed by Matthew Jeanes (brainwashed)
2nd Gen mastermind Wajid Yaseen also works under the alias Uniform with partner Alice Kemp, and Protocol is their latest effort for Planet Mu. Despite Planet Mu's ruptured dance tendencies, 2nd Gen's reputation for heavy break beats, and Uniform's first album for Ad Noiseam of abstract beat compositions, Protocol takes a hard left turn into unexpected territory.
Protocol is at once a dense, bleak, murderous kind of record that works on a purely visceral level. The songs appear mostly as loosely structured experiments centered around the dirty, scab-ridden, blood-clotted themes that the album takes on. There are almost no discernable beats this time around, and what rhythm exists seems almost like the breakbeats that Yaseen is known for stretched almost imperceptibly long like sinewy tissue that is tearing.
The tracks are almost exclusively composed of intensive waves of grumbling low end and harsh, manipulated synth figures. In fact, there's so much going on in the low frequencies that a lot of this album is simply lost without a good sub because the weight of most tracks is being carried in a frequency range that bookshelf speakers and earbuds just can't reproduce. That's both an asset and a drawback for the record; with the sub blasting and the volume cranked, the album recreates the bludgeoning force of its themes, but coming through a standard car stereo or from an mp3 player, the record may fail to connect.
A range of guest vocalists provides the personification of the album's unrelentingly dark themes. The voices usually take the already brutal sound design and drag the songs further through filthy gutters, but then Lydia Lunch, Alan Vega, and Dälek aren't known for an up-with-people vibe. It can all be a bit overwhelming in fact, and I find the record hard to listen to straight through because it's soaked with a very palpable dread, but allowing it to work its dark magic, there's no denying that it DOES work.
Like a lot of art that isn't actually pretty to look at or fun to watch, Protocol can be difficult, but there is a certain beauty in how capably it renders a world of violence and grime. I'm not always in the mood for a Park Chan-Wook film or for Michael Gira's writing, and I imagine that I'll need the right headspace to really appreciate Protocol on repeated listens, but there's no doubt that Uniform have captured ugliness here in a way that is affecting.
- Various - The Cosmic Forces Of Mu
- Venetian Snares - Defluxion
- Venetian Snares & Speedranch - Making Orange Things
- Joseph Nothing - Dummy Variations
- Hrvatski - Swarm & Dither
- Mu Allstars - Criminal
- Hellfish & Producer - Constant Mutation (Mixed)
- Leafcutter John - Microcontact
- Nicole Elmer - Beef Bouilion
- Tim Tetlow - Beauty Walks A Razor's Edge
- Phthalocyanine - 25 Tracks Fer 1 Track
- Leafcutter John - Concourse E.E.P.
- Luke Vibert - '95-'99
- Jega - Geometry
- Capitol K - Roadeater E.P.
- Kid Spatula - Full Sunken Breaks
- Jega & Kid Spatula - Unity Gain / Hard Love
- Capitol K - Sounds Of The Empire
- Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon
- Tusken Raiders - The Motorbike Track
- Slag Boom Van Loon - Slag Boom Van Loon
- Jega - Spectrum
- Horse Opera - 3 Cornered Room
- Capitol K - Island Row