- Terence Fixmer has a history of combining industrial and EBM influences with techno, and it's only recently that techno has been finally catching up with him. As discerning tastes shift closer and closer to the dark side with the growing popularity of Sandwell District, Prologue and Stroboscopic Artefacts, there's never been a better time for new audiences to embrace the Frenchman. He's even met them halfway: Fixmer has busted his aggressive techno wide open to create something less likely to scare unsuspecting (or EBM-disavowing) listeners away, an open and melodic sound that matures with the release of his fourth album, Comedy of Menace, on Speedy J's Electric Deluxe label.
There's a looseness to Menace that makes it instantly enjoyable; no laborious dissection or ascetic patience is necessary here. That's not to detract from Fixmer's art: the simplicity is refreshing, and clever sound design elevates the sometimes rudimentary elements to illusory immensity. If it wasn't apparent from titles like "Impakt" and "Drastik," there's an obvious Plastikman influence at work. "Impakt" is a clear tribute, slamming spiked appendages together over a serrated bassline—engineered for maximum discomfort like most of the album.
While the Plastikman influence is unavoidable, it's unfair to base the entire album around such a derivation. Fixmer sheathes Hawtin's old acid tongue, choosing screech over squelch. Many of the album's best moments spring from dissonance, the loud scrapes and sparks from rusty metal on metal littering the wheezing machinery of "Breathless." When the abrasion overwhelms the album's smooth listenability, it can be impressive (the fuzzed-out bob of "My Experimentation") or simply annoying (the ear-piercing cavalcade of chimes of "Dance Like Paranoid"). On the contrary, the fluidly rolling toms of "Drastik" provide a satisfying mid-album peak, and most of the time Fixmer settles into an agreeable medium between mellifluous and malevolent.
Perhaps what's most important about Comedy of Menace is that Fixmer nails the long-player format so well I didn't even have to engage in the whole "dance music albums are difficult" spiel. Fixmer has slightly dialed down the ferocity, a move which opens the album up to a deceptively inviting facade. But aggressive or not, there's no denying the appeal of Fixmer's adept and detailed productions, ensconced in strategic reverb without sounding dubby, angry without resorting to histrionics. After a decade-and-a-half, Fixmer might be considered a veteran, and he's made a veteran techno album: cool, assured and unfailingly solid. It just so happens that it's also perfectly in tune with the narrative tangent techno has run off on in the last few years.
01. Dark Line
02. Things are Over
07. My Experimentation
09. Dance Like Paranoid
10. Last Heroes