Prequel Tapes & dBridge (PTdB) - Ionize

  • dBridge's emotional melodies meet Prequel Tapes' industrial-influenced rhythms on this inspired collaboration.
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  • In his 2018 RA Exchange with Joe Muggs, dBridge, AKA Darren White, explained that some of his earliest musical loves were the shoegaze and post-punk bands that he and his friends listened to growing up in the small town of Malvern. Shoegaze, White said, was his first taste of an "underlying moroseness" that he has since been channeling into his own productions for the better part of three decades. I find this bit of White's personal listening history useful context for his collaboration with Marco Freivogel (AKA Prequel Tapes). The German producer also has a penchant for the scuzzy but emotional sounds of shoegaze, turning out experimental electronics peppered with post-punk and industrial influences for labels like Mannequin since he arrived on the scene in 2015. On Ionize, we see both producers channel this "underlying moroseness" on a record that sounds like both artists yet neither of them at the same time. The lead track, "Divisible Cause," starts with a growing guttural wail of distortion that wouldn't be out of place on a Kevin Shields record. As the dust settles, an EBM rhythm swaggers onto the horizon before being overcome by a symphonic barrage of chords. If the first half of the track sounds like Freivogel, the melodic touch reminds me of White, evoking the Autonomic sound that he pioneered. What made his work during the Autonomic period (both as producer and A&R man) so important was the feeling it brought back into drum & bass, which had become clinical and technical. As White explained to Muggs, his goal was to ensure that "the details [didn't] overtake the vibe." And the details definitely don't kill the vibe on the rest of Ionize. We get heaps of emotive melody on the remaining tracks. The austere whips and cracking rhythms of the UK techno-adjacent "Pleasure System" are made human through the wistful pads that end the song. Even the alien masochism in the drug chug of "Stray Thrills" has a certain deepness in the chords that add a plaintive touch. The only tune that doesn't tap into this melancholic range is the closer, "Mindless," which ups the BPM to 170 and features ghoulish dub chords and bleeps. White's trademark melodies create pockets of air that open up the otherwise claustrophobic, almost frenzied track. Describing the collaboration, Freivogel made a point to underline that the two producers share a "common ground of groove, sound design and melody." You can hear them both finding this shared vocabulary across Ionize (and in this excellent mix they put together). While there are recognizable moments when either Freivogel or White takes the lead, the end product is ultimately more than the sum of its parts.
  • Tracklist
      01. Divisible Cause 02. Stray Thrills 03. Pleasure Systems 04. Mindless