Sandwell District - Feed-Forward

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  • Sandwell District began back in 2002—now, at the beginning of 2011, we are edging towards the completed picture. Function, Regis, Silent Servant and Female have never actively pursued anonymity: The nebulous hue cast over their label was merely an information drought. Few would have known before last year, for instance, that Function's involvement in techno stretched back 20 years; Silent Servant has a record-shelf stacked with post-punk and industrial; and Regis' role in the label is to "disrupt proceedings." And from an aesthetic standpoint, this first album as Sandwell District is as close to the "total product" as the label has ventured. The pair of clear vinyl on which the album's nine tracks are pressed are accompanied by a fanzine of John Mendez (Silent Servant) artworks and an additional 7-inch. Most pertinently, though, Feed-Forward represents the first full exploration of the Sandwell District sound world. Recurrent themes—ominous strings, jagged synths, metallic reverb—have revealed themselves across the label's two dozen or so releases, and are there in spades on album opener "Immolare (First)." But Feed-Forward's real triumph is in transpositions of the established framework. Few contemporary producers have bettered the inexorable techno blueprint laid down by the collective, but here it's used as a mere jumping off point from which to scale the emotional register. "Grey Cut Out" smacks of Sandwell District (substantial synthesized string section, brittle drum sounds) yet it touches a poignant early '90s nerve hitherto unfelt with the group. "Double Day" portends ambient menace but it quickly gives way to hope—even in its fleeting appearance, the serene 30-second synth solo that closes the track is stunning. "Speed + Sound" finishes the album by flirting with noise-fuelled delirium before pulling back from the precipice and tumbling into an ethereal sound wall. Despite the experimental expositions, though, Feed-Forward is still ostensibly a techno album. The second part of the three-part opening piece calls to mind Shed's crackling chords and low-end rumble; part three presents the album's most palpable paean to Berghain. While far from breathtaking, "Hunting Lodge" offers alternate cadences and texture through its woody mid-range and sinister synths, although it's on tracks like "Svar" that the techno purview is broadened. Again, the cut bears distinguishable Sandwell District scars, but when before were you invited to feel euphoric in their company? Regis in particular has talked about the label's desire to escape the perceived disposability of techno by packaging a project's complete and unrestrained vision, and in both sight and sound Feed-Forward is a total immersion in the Sandwell District deep. From a broader perspective you could argue that in this regard the collective are simply aping their DIY post-punk era influences. But in a modern day when most things are easy, free and instant, looking to the past is probably the best way of eliciting an imagined future.
  • Tracklist
      01. Immolare (First) 02. Immolare (Main) 03. Immolare (Final) 04. Grey Cut Out 05. Hunting Lodge 06. Falling the Same Way 07. Svar 08. Double Day 09. Speed + Sound 10. Track 10 11. Track 11