- The technoise heavyweight continues to push his sound forward.
- As Container, Ren Schofield has been a pied piper in the last decade's migration of underground noise to the dance floor. His rise has coincided with other shifts in the same direction, from Dominick Fernow's adoption of the Vatican Shadow alias to the establishment of L.I.E.S. Records and Davey Harms' continued experiments as Mincemeat And Tenspeed and World War. But Container albums have a unique focus on precision and intensity. Schofield fuses the ecstatic emotional release of techno with the absolute discord of noise without letting either side dominate. Within that delicate balance, he creates music that is anything but delicate.
There are several aspects of Scramblers that seem to signal a new era for the project. All of Schofield's past albums have been simply titled LP. This is his first release for Alter, a label run by fellow boundary-pusher Luke Younger. It follows a move to London from the noise hub of Providence, Rhode Island. While the sound of Scramblers is very much in line with previous releases, with percussive hits that are cranked into the red and splatters of atonal synth, it also feels more streamlined and aggressive. It rarely sits in a groove for very long without some kind of escalation of intensity, and even tracks at a slower tempo (relatively speaking) feel like they're rushing to a finish line. There's a sense of constantly being pushed to the edge of collapse without ever reaching the point of complete obliteration.
The creative tension in Schofield's music is between his gleeful, frenzied tendencies and the mechanistic qualities of the tools he uses. Mania is not an inherent quality of a drum machine, a device programmed to be as steady as possible. But through whiplash juxtapositions and a liberal use of distortion, Schofield approximates the feeling of urgent escalation without abandoning the insistent pulse that ties his tracks to the language of club music. He's also willing to subvert the beat itself from time to time, like the suddenly spiraling breaks on "Mottle," or the awkwardly placed kick patterns of "Queaser," which refuse to adhere to anything but their own strangely syncopated logic. Spasmodic bursts of noise are a normal occurrence throughout the album.
Scramblers isn't a complete reinvention for Schofield, but shows he's willing to play around with his established formula to keep it from going stale. There has never been a Container album that felt rote or uninspired, but there's only so far you can push music focused on intensity and overdrive without burning out the listener or yourself. By stripping down his sound, making it more like punk, he ups the energy levels without crowding the sonic field. It proves Schofield is as much a master of subtlety and balance as he is of feral chaos.