Craig Richards & Transparent Sound - The Two Headed Monster

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  • Craig Richards has been banging it out weekly at Fabric since it opened, and he’s also had several mixes on the Fabric label showcasing his interest in dark, electro-tinged minimal techno. For this double header, he's teamed up with Transparent Sound, the UK duo of Orson Bramley and Martin Brown, whose recent productions have veered increasingly close to Richards' favoured sound, or as Richards puts it, 'deeper, groovier and more 4/4 based as opposed to the electro they used to do.' Richards has also expressed an interest in collaborating with live electronics and musicians on stage, and the album's launch party was held at Fabric on July 1st. Hence this double CD release, with Richards mixing the first disc (including digital effects and processing) and Transparent Sound offering a live studio set on disc 2. Live, Richards' sets can be most disorienting, putting Fabric's main room through a spin dryer and often eclipsing his high-profile international guests. Here, without dancers to interact with, things are considerably flatter, yet they are consistent. Andy Toth's 'Jovian Zoology' opens things perfectly, all enticing blips, bass and crumpled tin, yet the next several tracks vary little from this template: the appearance of Crane AK from the old Force Tracks roster makes you realize how long this sort of sound has been going. Ryan Crosson, Sweet 'n' Candy and Falko Brocksieper all appear early on and segue effortlessly - too effortlessly - each track bleeding into its neighbour with little sense of transition or development. Lexdinamo's 'Iky' brings in a dread-filled vocal worthy of Anthony Rother, T. Raumschmiere's 'Knisterpop' adds a pinch of nastiness with his trademark buzzsaws and dying speaker failure, while Und's 'Cocopuffs' scatters fairy dust and dazzles, but through to the finish its all sleek forward drive with few bumps in the road. Richards' use of effects seems, ironically, intended to reduce rather than embolden, with dry rhythmic passages extended, streamlining the whole rather than beefing up parts. Richards has said that he aimed for a 'hypnotic' mix, and while minimal purists may find the relentlessness entrancing, it will be considered monotonous by more catholic listeners. While Richards' final few tracks, particularly Marc Ashken's 'Hair Up High', hinted at grander vistas to come, but these aren't delivered by Transparent Sound. Fortunately, their set is different, all large plastic chunks in obvious arrangements rather than petite tics and subtlety, but like many recorded live sets their formula soon grows tired. 'Secrets of the Sane' wastes no time, emerging all guns blazing with old-school chords, a synthetic flute melody and acid pulses, but their set is even more homogeneous than Richards'. 'Proper Techno' incorporates water droplets and clicks, and 'Spot the Difference' returns the drums to traditional electro rhythms, but otherwise the same twisting pads, sweeping chords and electro fizz never let up. Live, this music could be most satisfying but on disc it's too blunt. Richards seems to have taken the other route, removing much of what makes his live sets exciting.