- The first thing that might strike you about Surgeon's new album is the image of the artist on the cover. In a career spanning more than 20 years, Anthony Child has largely adhered to the tradition of techno as a faceless art form. That's not to say he's kept his personality out of his work—the macabre undertones of his and Regis's British Murder Boys project, or playful titles like This Is For You Shits, all point to his acerbic sense of humour. In more recent years he's stepped into the spotlight more explicitly, not least by confounding pop fans alongside Lady Starlight while warming up for Lady Gaga.
Having his face at the front of Luminosity Device, Child's eighth studio album as Surgeon, is not an ego-driven move—it's actually the opposite. The LP is inspired primarily by the Bardo Thodol—commonly known as the Tibetan Book Of The Dead—and personal loss. The Bardo Thodol is a Buddhist text that describes the experience the consciousness has after death and before rebirth (the bardo being the liminal state in between). A more recent book, The Psychedelic Experience, co-authored by Timothy Leary in 1964, drew parallels between LSD use and the experiences described in the Bardo Thodol in a process referred to as "ego death."
In recent years, Child has been immersed in the world of modular synthesis. The last Surgeon album, From Farthest Known Objects, was an attempt, he once told FACT, "to make techno with machines that aren't usually used to make techno." If that album felt like an experiment that probed the possibilities of a complex system, Luminosity Device is the sound of Child harnessing that system to a specific purpose, as though he has tamed the wild horse and set it to work.
The LP bristles with energy from the start. After the beatless pulse of "Seven Peaceful Deities," the maximalist attitude of "The Primary Clear Light" seems like a kind of test. The trancey arps rushing over the top of the track might divide opinion among devout Birmingham techno heads who crave the steely menace of his 12-inches for Downwards or Counterbalance. Those conspicuous high notes, though, allude to the title's meaning—the clear light or luminosity apparently experienced in deep sleep or death. Other tracks are more Surgeon-like, particularly the ferocious "Earth-Sinking-Into-Water," which sidesteps conventional percussion in favour of snarling rhythmic threads.
"The Vibratory Waves Of External Unity" is the best demonstration of Child's machines working in harmony, with its interlocked lead and bassline moving as one. The track teeters on the edge of chaos, but Child always retains control—a part of the process that seemed less important on the last album. Luminosity Device isn't a perfect Surgeon LP—the pealing leads, modular squiggles and bludgeoning offbeat kicks, heard on tracks like "Courage To Face Up To" and "Master Of All Visible Shapes," develop into a noticeable formula. But in the music's detail and delivery you can feel how Child has mastered these errant, infinitely complex machines.
01. Seven Peaceful Deities
02. The Primary Clear Light
03. Courage To Face Up To
05. Master Of All Visible Shapes
06. The Vibratory Waves Of External Unity
07. Eight Wrathful Deities
08. The Etheric Body
09. The Source