The 2009 return of Luke Slater's Planetary Assault Systems guise—the most renowned of his ten-plus monikers—saw a subtle but significant change in his palette. Gone, in many respects, were the abrasive and uncompromising textures that dominated the producer's revered output for much of the '90s and '00s, replaced by a smoother and more intricate sound reminiscent of the post-minimal industrial that had risen to prominence alongside one of Slater's adopted club homes, Berghain. On The Messenger, that trend continues across most of the 12 tracks on display, though the ferociousness of PAS circa-1999 is given some airtime, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, serves as the LP's highlights.
After a smooth start supplied by the kick-less ambience of opener "Railer (Further Exploration)" and heady "Human Like Us," it's "Bell Blocker" that gets things going. Ominous sub bass is paired with warped bell synths that drift in and out of focus while they contend with hi-hats and a subdued kick drum, resulting in an eloquently moody excursion. The same goes for the proceeding track, "Wriss," which makes use of a looped vocal snippet and bleepy midrange for another venture into gentle, steadily paced techno.
It's not until "Rip the Cut," two-thirds of the way through the LP, that things get hot and heavy. Distortion rears its head for the first time, rendering the track as something that wouldn't be out of place in a collection of Peacefrog-era PAS—even so, it's The Messenger's highlight, and one that showcases several of Slater's oldest and finest hallmarks—rolling bass, big drums and expert layering.
Slater's embrace of restraint is what makes The Messenger so special though. Early on, the brooding sweeps of "Beauty in the Fear" set the scene for the hallucinogenic synth work that follows as a part of "Human Like Us" and "Bell Blocker," while, at just past midway, the sinisterly loopy and hazy "Kray Squid" leads perfectly into the carnage of "Rip the Cut." They are essential ingredients to an album that stands alongside 2011's best.
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Tracklist: Planetary Assault Systems - The Messenger 01. Railer (Further Exploration)
02. Beauty In The Fear
03. Human Like Us
04. Bell Blocker
06. Movement 12
07. Call From The East
08. Kray Squid
09. Rip The Cut
11. Cold Bolster