- Tommy Four Seven recently complained to RA that "techno [right] now is really fucking clean and it's not really like it's played in a warehouse." A great quote, but the Berlin-based British producer's debut album is a stronger statement of intent. Primate throws away the traditional techno toolkit, rejecting generic drum sounds like snares and kicks and refusing synthesisers altogether. It relies instead on field recordings of suitably metallic sounds—underground trains rolling over tracks, crunched-up foil—treated beyond recognition. The results are a distorted hybrid of the pummelling schranz of Tommy's label manager Chris Liebing and the blank minimalism of Richie Hawtin's Plastikman output.
While undeniably techno in its tempo and structure, Primate's abrasive aesthetic owes more to the '90s pioneers who dragged industrial metal onto the dance floor. Though unique in their origins, the crackling percussion and short-circuited saws bear a stark resemblance to those used by, say, former Nine Inch Nails member and remixer Charlie Clouser, with end track "Armed 3" an uptempo take on Aphex Twin's own Reznor refix, "At the Heart of It All."
Aware that "all that distortion and the industrial size of the sounds" can be overwhelming, Tommy Four Seven uses vocals to introduce a "human element and a bit more soul." He enlisted fellow expat sound designer Emika, whose hushed, abstracted voice adds much-needed melody to "Talus," "g," "Verge" and its reprise "Armed 3"—tracks that poke their heads above the album's sea of noise, gasping for air.
Tommy Four Seven's neo-industrialism is a first step towards taking techno back to Juan Atkins' original intention: "music that sounds like technology." It may be less conceptually neat than Emika's own work on the Ostgut Ton Fünf compilation (which used sounds recorded in Berghain), but Primate presents a singular, uncompromising vision. Where listeners once heard the rusted machinery of a dying Detroit between its beats, techno today echoes the hollowed-out industrial spaces of Berlin, and the trains that take clubbers there. Primate isn't an easy listen, but at least it contains the right sounds.
05. Track 5
09. Armed 3