- ENA gave Samurai Horo its first artist album last year, and he hit it out of the park. The Japanese producer's take on drum & bass—in which he renders it basically unrecognizable—was in line with the label's mission to expand the boundaries of the genre. ENA has since become something of a flagship artist for Horo, ripping up the drum & bass rulebook and writing a new one with his own musical vocabulary. He constructs fussy drum tracks built from microscopic samples and implacable found sounds, which made Binaural feel like dance music from another planet. But however strange that record might have been, it's outdone by Divided, which is another landmark for Horo: its first cassette. Conceived during rehearsals for ENA's new live set, Divided takes scraps of sound and fleshes them out into full tracks, which are among the most outlandish in his discography.
ENA's last two albums were built around his unconventional rhythms, but Divided is all about what happens in between: the odd pockets of ambience, the passive melodies in the background and the rustling sound effects he picked up from god knows where. Even at their most challenging, there's something gripping about ENA's soundscapes. The lengthy "5th Divided" starts out like a recording of a wind storm and then transitions into furious bubbling, as if he were holding a mic under the surface of a boiling pot of water. There's nothing musical about it, and it's the level of detail that makes it entrancing—a reminder that much more goes into his music than just tight drum programming.
"1st Divided" is the closest thing to typical ENA, cloaking a pacing rhythm in hazy atmospherics. "3rd Divided" plays with air pressure, turning certain frequency bands on and off until it you think your ears are popping. There's only the barest hint of a beat underneath it, while the drums on "7th Divided" plod so slowly that it's easy to forget there's any movement there in the first place. The latter two test your patience, but if you listen carefully there's a whole landscape of odd little sounds to latch onto. "4th Divided" finds the ideal middle ground between regular ENA and experimental ENA, with a slow-moving, explosive drum track that sounds like mortar shelling.
Even for a producer whose work has always been stark and unfriendly, Divided scales new heights of abstraction, abandoning ENA's usually sharp focus for an exploratory outlook. Because it comes on cassette, and because it feels like it's made up of sketches, Divided is more of a side project than a big statement. Though they lack ENA's percussive gymnastics, these neat little diversions are nearly as compelling as the main attraction.
A1 1st Divided
A2 2nd Divided
A3 3rd Divided
A4 4th Divided
B1 5th Divided
B2 6th Divided
B3 7th Divided
B4 8th Divided