- As 2AM/FM James T. Cotton and D'Marc Cantu explore the sound of early Rephlex and Trax Records releases. The four-track Electronic Justice EP, their third for Spectral Sound, is no different: It's a stripped and urban-grimy affair, bathed in black and stripes of neon, a rewarding engagement with early acid house.
On "1MG" the 303 squelches have their releases heavily clipped, producing a terse and aggressive sound akin to laser-welding in a Jersey turnpike oil refinery. The whole track shudders and convulses with a tense and epileptic gait, punctured with bursts of compressed percussion, while spooky short-circuited traces of human speech alternately intone "JACK" and "HOUSE." Pressurized, ominous and militarized, it's easily the standout.
"Werkin' House," which follows, cuts a vein open in the stiff claustrophobia traced by its predecessor, allowing the blood to flow: The acid tweaks are now in full bloom, and dense machine-gun claps and snares momentarily drown the track throughout its length in swaths of swollen phase. It's the most straightforward excursion here, bridging the harsh paranoia of the first to the occult anthemics of "Electronic Justice." That track, with deadpan lyrics like "Experimental sound, experimental vision / This is us, who we are / This is our religion," functions as a default manifesto for the duo. The atmosphere is carved out by some hi-freq cave reverb on the clap, paired with super-sparse synth plonk. Across the clusters of pitchshifted vocals, eerie, trebly Blade Runner pads waft through the steely air.
Closer "Static Vision" is paradoxically enough the most rhythmically dynamic track, an almost tuneless percussive free-for-all that returns to the start/stop interplay of "1MG" this time repurposed to much more groove-centered, upbeat effect. The otherwise restrained use of the 303 throughout the EP is a mark of judicious craft. It can be assumed that a fair amount of good sense is useful in staying the hand that turns the filter and resonance knobs, especially when you know how little it takes to crank it up until it starts shattering wine glasses. Here, only just enough room is given to the chalkboard-scrape of the infamous 303 hi-freq screech before reining it back in again—only in the final seconds of this outro track is the 303 finally given space for the full range of its uppermost register, but in an airless and relieved sigh.
A2 Werkin House
B1 Electronic Justice
B2 Static Vision