- "Maybe I should focus on just one thing," Milo Smee, AKA Bintus, once told XLR8R, as he considered his various side projects. But where Power Vacuum is concerned, Smee's curiosity for fresh sounds has been a boon. The label's 12-inches draw from vintage '90s techno and electro, but they also exaggerate those forms. On tracks like Cylob's "Concrete Corporal," with its burping synth bass and sour melody, or the slasher film strings of Scalameriya & VSK's "Codex," Power Vacuum's thrill-seeking tendencies outstrip those of most techno labels. By inviting a fresh cast of producers onto Vectors 3, Smee shows a sense of adventure to match his out-there tastes.
One of the compilation's best moments, courtesy of Pan Daijing, pulls techno into outrageous shapes. As noisy as any Power Vacuum track, "Very Uncomfortable, Please" is both theatrical and comedic. Orchestral strings melt onto 8-bit bleeps and distorted-to-hell kick drums. The result is the opposite of soothing. (Pan Daijing also helps deliver another of Vectors 3's highlights through the tricky drums and ghostly wails of the Bintus-remixed "Druid.") Other tracks on Vectors 3 are less invested in these extremes. While that's not a problem per se, tracks such as Duran Duran Duran's "Drap Jam," solid as they are, lack some other strategy to get your attention.
Past contributors to the Vectors series managed to put their stamp on the Power Vacuum sound. A number of tracks on Vectors 3 seem to occupy their own corner—as a result, the compilation fails to cohere as past editions did. Whatever the standalone merits of Bleaching Agent's "Operai" or Inca Pax's "Transfer Function," these sort of greyscale techno tracks lack the singular weirdness that defines Power Vacuum's best material. (The stuttered rhythms of "Operai," in particular, are a poor fit.) Among the contributors pushing themselves to match the label's trademark intensity, only Pan Daijing's ear-bleeders catch you off-guard. Vectors 3 is a commendable—and occasionally excellent—document of experimental techno. Smee's artists take plenty of risks on the compilation, but his vision of "mental" dance music rarely emerges from these leaps of faith.
A1 Dr. Skime - RX7 Jams
A2 Pan Daijing - Very Uncomfortable, Please
B1 Beau Wanzer - Up Chuck's
B2 Duran Duran Duran - Drap Jam
C1 Pan Daijing - Druid (Bintus Rmx)
C2 Inca Pax - Transfer Function
D1 Martyn Hare - Time Terminated
D2 Bleaching Agent - Operai