- "I don't see a news report about a downturn in the British economy, or the 100% cut in arts funding in Newcastle, and then run to the studio to express my anger in the form of a techno track." So said Ali Wells last year when asked about the links between his music and the political situation around him. While it would be wrong not to take him at his word, you have to imagine the headfuck of current British politics would seep into his work in one way or another. It's there in the photo of Trellick Tower on the cover of his last EP, A New Brutality. It's probably in that title, too.
Scanning the track names on The Power & The Glory, Wells' second album, it's hard to miss "David & George," a nod to the British Prime Minister and Chancellor Of The Exchequer. You can hear the entitled chuckling of the Bullingdon boys in the tape-loop of maniacal laughter that floats over the track's depth-less, mindlessly distorted beat. The track also displays a formal quality that comes to define the album: the tension between suspension and release, stasis and progress.
The two opening tracks feature the mangled vocals of Dethscalator's Dan Chandler and Factory Floor's Nik Void. Both try to break through the noise to be understood, but they can't. Where Chandler is animalistic, screaming into the darkness, Void sounds inhumanly calm, her voice constantly melting back into a bedrock of ever more distorted thumps. The track doesn't so much progress as decay, and the presence of the human voice, trapped and struggling, is deeply disconcerting amid the blown-out sounds of degraded machinery.
Wicker & Steel, the first Perc album, managed a balance of beats and atmosphere that's rare in techno full-lengths, but the results were never as extreme as they are here. Following the madness of "David & George," "Horse Gum" is five minutes of static, drone and metallic death rattle. The bird chirps and jaunty whistling that open "Dumpster" are slashed by a furious distorted kick. There is no attempt at integration, just a brutal jump from one place to another. The remainder of the track sparks the beginning of the album's generally rowdier final third, blending flashes of broken beats with a frantic, clipped repetition that smacks of Detroit techno artist X-102.
The Power & The Glory is not an explicitly political album. Rather, like all great techno, its power lies in its abstraction, in its transformative repetition. Its glory is in the ecstatic spectacle techno so often evokes—the coming together of masses of bodies and entire buildings shaking from the pound of a kick drum and its attendant feet. Over the course of ten tracks, Wells renders the many feelings that words cannot, a series of atmospheres you feel in your bones but can never name, a power that, in the words of George Orwell, is "constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler." He captures in sound that awesome, terrifying, unshakeable image of the Orwellian imagination: a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
01. Rotting Sound
05. David & George
06. Horse Gum
08. Bleeding Colours
09. Take Your Body Off
10. A Living End