- A bold step forward.
- In May, a restaurant and hairdresser took calls from Google Duplex, a voice assistant software unveiled to an amphitheatre of developers in California. The exchanges were mundane, and, therefore, a success. The software was programmed to mimic natural human speech, including "mmhs" and "aahs," and respond conversationally to questions from a maître d' or stylist. The demo drew gasps from the crowd. It was a milestone towards the point at which we'll no longer be able to distinguish between human and machine. Objekt's second LP, Cocoon Crush, seems engaged in a similar process—that is, of making techno that sounds as unrobotic as possible.
It's possible that TJ Hertz has always made music with this in mind. In a recent RBMA lecture, he mentioned "humanism" and "a lifelike aspect" as qualities he tries to capture in his work. He succeeds on Cocoon Crush like never before. The opening seconds of the first track, "Lost And Found (Lost Mix)," suggest an idyllic rainforest setting—water, birds, insects and footsteps trickle into earshot. But when some of these sounds begin to spin backwards, you might suddenly think of it as a subtle glitch tugging at a pristine hologram.
Cocoon Crush's vivid colours and wriggling surfaces are its most striking features. They're heard clearly in the rich tones of "35," the percussion tics in "Dazzle Anew" and the wayward trail of drums, set loose from the grid, in "Silica." Only a few tracks here are recognisable as techno, a style at which Hertz excels as both a producer and a DJ. The majority take more ambiguous forms, given life by his granular sound design and methodical self-editing.
The "humanism" of Cocoon Crush is at its most sinister on "Rest Yr Troubles Over Me," a suspenseful series of samples or auditory illusions where you can make out, variously, slamming car doors, disturbed gravel paths, unspooled duct tape, tolling bells and a tinnitus tone ringing in airless space. These incidental, edge-of-frame details are overlaid with gospel lyrics recited by a mournful android. When he sings, "Rest your troubles over me," it sounds less like an offer of comfort than a plea for forgiveness.
For all its mind-melting attention to detail, Hertz's music has rarely sounded so evocative. His last album, the more techno-focused Flatland, took its name from a Victorian novella whose hero, A Square, discovers one- and three-dimensional worlds. Cocoon Crush may be to Hertz what Spaceland was to A Square. There are sly nods to past material—a squiggling bass on "Silica," for example, is from "Ganzfeld"—but the LP marks a bold step forward for Hertz, even if he won't take all the credit for it. "My approach to sound is more about letting processes and equipment do the imagination for me," he's said. The results on Cocoon Crush are incredible.
01. Lost And Found (Lost Mix)
02. Dazzle Anew
04. Nervous Silk
06. Rest Yr Troubles Over Me
09. Secret Snake
10. Another Knot
11. Lost and Found (Found Mix)