- A few years ago, AnD—AKA Andrew Bowen and Dimitri Poumplidis—were among a cohort of UK artists making what's commonly referred to as industrial techno, an unforgiving lash of distorted kick drums, harsh frequencies and battered factory metals. It's a style of dance music still doing the rounds—Karenn and Paula Temple, for example, still play regularly—but a number of acts in that orbit have either disbanded (Blacknecks) or faded from view (MPIA3, AKA Truss). AnD's second album, on the other hand, ventures into fresh extremes.
Social Decay is a long, hard trudge along the windswept ridge where techno meets noise and industrial. The vocals are shrouded by howling feedback and distortion. The drums, brittle and erratic, fall like rocks from a landslide. There are no Surgeon-style swingers of, say, their last LP, the outer-space themed Cosmic Microwave Background. The track titles hint as to why: "Corrupted Structures," "Anarchic Rhapsody" and "Disturbed Reality" all point to the turbulent times. "When the surroundings change, your taste will change," Poumplidis told the Quietus in 2014. Three years on, Social Decay is a grim view of the world they now find themselves in.
Beginning with the Gerhard Richter-style artwork on the sleeve, AnD presents its themes in abstract ways. "Corrupted Structures" features the first of several intercom vocals, sunk in mossy static. Is it speech, or white noise? "UFO" sounds like a subway commute from hell, which might gesture to everyday pressures. If there's a point being made, though, it's rarely clear—Social Decay is stress relief, not social commentary. As the album enters its second half, the rhythms assert themselves. "Pandemonium," a breakbeat thrash on metal dustbin lids, begins a sequence that runs through distortion-scarred techno ("Screaming Voices," "Artificial Intelligence"), drum & bass dystopia ("Resisting Authority") and gabber-tempo gales ("Taking Control"). There's a vague suggestion here of pushing back against authority, but it's more likely that we're accelerating on a ramp to oblivion.
Social Decay's appeal depends on your threshold for intensity. There are deep nods to Dominick Fernow, Samuel Kerridge and Justin Broadrick, especially in the LP's opening half. AnD adopt these ideas with style and imagination, adding steel-capped techno, drum & bass and IDM beats with the crusty, hard-bitten mood that's long defined what they do. But their taste for thrills comes at a slight cost. Social Decay skimps on the slippery, energising grooves of 12-inches like Ard Core Krew and Psychoanalysis Shapes. The tail-end of the LP in particular ("Kepler," "Disturbed Reality") can feel like a grind to get through.
"Screaming Voices," though, is one of the LP's most promising middle grounds between old and new. Around a beat made of bashed steel and slurred vocals, a bass-and-bleep rhythm begins to congeal. Sometime later, there's a fiery, stereo-filling crackle. It's angry and torrid, and yet, as the bassline takes hold, the discomfort begins to slide away. In moments like these, the album's rage is both expressive and constructive—not just as a reaction to ignorance and malice, but as a drill to relieve pressure on the psyche. They're not going "harder and harder and harder," as Poumplidis once put it, but deeper and deeper and deeper.
01. First Element
02. Corrupted Structures
03. Anarchic Rhapsody
04. Corrogated Windows
08. Screaming Voices
09. Artificial Intelligence
10. Resisting Authority
11. Taking Control
13. Disturbed Reality