- Oliver Ho has donned many masks over the last 20-odd years. In the days of his now-defunct label, Meta, he was a bastion of tribal techno. These days his most intriguing work is less focussed on the dance floor. As Ho has become increasingly influenced by art, literature and the mystical and psychological properties of music, he's released conceptual club records as Raudive alongside more experimental efforts as Zov Zov and Broken English Club. Suburban Hunting is Ho's first attempt at fully realizing the latter alias, a manifesto, if you will, that's perhaps his most sonically expansive project to date.
Broken English Club first appeared on Jealous God, the techno arthouse label set up by Regis, Silent Servant and Ruskin back in 2013. A split with Silent Servant came next for Minimal Wave's Cititrax—a "no-brainer" union, as Will Lynch noted—which raked over old EBM and post-punk with a fresh "industrial wave" perspective. Scars then consolidated the Broken English Club sound, which Suburban Hunting seems bent on breaking apart for closer inspection.
There are three main types of tracks here: slow dirges ("Nursing Home," "Scum," "Prayer Space"), vintage techno ("Vacant," "Knives") and rowdy post-punk ("Derelict," "Tourist Zone"). The rest of the tracklist plugs the voids in between. "Godless" and "Crime" bridge scuzzy EBM soundscapes with cleaner, dance-friendly beats. In what feels like a tip of the hat to inspirations like Throbbing Gristle, Coil and Psychic TV, the closing track, "Shallow Pits," is built around an ominous spoken word piece. Transitions are rough-hewn and unpredictable, amplifying a wild-eyed feeling that anything could happen next.
The title track doesn't quite sit with the rest, though in a way it probably best conveys what Broken English Club are all about. "Suburban Hunting" is just one big swell of sound that isn't techno, noise, industrial, EBM or anything else we've heard so far. It's its own mutative, meditative, solitary thing that fully assimilates all the record's poles into a throbbing, self-contained entity. It's also the first track that really lets go of the past, while keeping its essence intact.
In sweeping terms, Suburban Hunting is a murky exploration of the middle ground between club and rock music, live instrumentation and electronic programming, as well as genres past and present. When pressed about his personal take on the record, Ho described it as being "like a movie… like a physical place… a picture I want to create, so I look at it like painting." I see it more like a patchwork: a new and complex design stitched together from treasured old parts.
01. Nursing Home
06. Tourist Zone
08. Suburban Hunting
10. Prayer Space
11. Shallow Pits