- Considered, mesmerizing beat science.
- Larry McCarthy, better known as Bruce, makes techno feel pliant and flexible. He can infuse the starkest of dance floor tunes with profound emotion—how many other techno break-up records have you heard?—or strip them down into barely-there wisps of rhythm and melody, all while keeping their dance floor potential intact. Some of his strongest tracks are crafted from blunt and abrasive sounds that would probably sound wrong in the hands of a lesser producer. He's had one of UK dance music's most distinctive and intriguing discographies of the last five years. McCarthy's talents come together nicely on Sonder Somatic, his debut LP.
Sonder Somatic, like other Hessle Audio albums, makes few concessions to the full-length format—it's an hour-long collection of the kind of dance tunes you'd hear on any Bruce EP. Take "What," where synth and vocals are fused together and stretched out into noisy squalls. (The effect is gleefully hectic.) Coiled drum patterns and spasms of R&B vocals rouse the album to life on "Elo." The skippy rhythms and chords of "Cacao," stretched and thinned out like pieces of chewing gum, are endlessly entertaining.
"Æon" might at first seem like standard Bristol broken techno, but it's loaded with arresting detail, such as the springy one-shots that occupy McCarthy's three-dimensional soundscape. The second half of Sonder Somatic, especially, is a feast of novel effects that sound great on headphones. "It'll Pass" eventually forms a rhythm out of a swamp of hums and buzzes. "Serotonin Levels Low" sounds like techno running on a dying battery.
Elsewhere, Sonder Somatic dives into the deeper styles that have made for some of Bruce's best records. "Meek" and "Torn" are floaty and ethereal, with atmospheres that shroud the drums like a smoke machine. On "Baychimo," McCarthy makes one of his loveliest soundscapes before interrupting it all with an absurd foghorn blast and dropping in a hefty beat whose snares cut like butcher's knives.
The LP's disparate styles are held together by McCarthy's spartan aesthetic and economy of arrangement. Even an irreverent trick like the fakeout on "Baychimo" is considered, mesmerizing beat science. This is stripped-down club music at its most rich and sumptuous.
08. Patience St Pim
09. It'll Pass
11. Serotonin Levels Low