Among other things, 2011 seemed like the year where artists in the US underground suddenly tackled dance music, whether it was the heat-warped house of 100% Silk or the unhinged techno of artists like Container. A few seconds into Yellow Swans co-founder Pete Swanson's first album for Type and it seems like he's done the same. The producer's usual crawling sheets of fermenting frequencies are forcefully pried apart, leaving an uncomfortable void that hints towards forward movement before a barreling kick drum appears. It's the intrusion of rhythm from an artist who almost only ever made ambient, beatless music: but is it actually techno? Sort of.
"Misery Beat," with its cascade of high pitched noises, dramatic melodies and rapidfire kick drum owes something to Surgeon, but all in all it has more in common with some dramatized, speed-riddled vision of early rave music than anything else. Nonetheless, Swanson's material is still more likely to fit in with non-dance narratives than proper techno: when the majestic second track "Remote View" hums and buzzes into earshot, it's coasting on a slow, barely audible beat, its dramatic string melody scraped and torn by all sorts of screeches and whale noises, like the sparks produced from metal cutting through metal. The album's title track takes that last part most literally, a blinding screen of white-hot flames interlocking in a dense, dizzying weave, with only the faintest hints of melody brooding behind.
Instead of appropriating techno, Swanson has merely opened up his music to new modes of being: sometimes that takes the form of a feverish kick driving the song from a distance ("Far Out") or sometimes it's a less conventional, more sporadic rhythmic thrust ("A&OxO"). It's also the harsh, resonant upper frequency range that he employs—it's unlike much else in his catalogue, and makes for some of his most caustic, violent material yet. The album ends with "Face The Music," which comes the closest here to, well, music, but it's attacked by a swarm of toothsome frequencies until it sounds more horrific than the record's most deafening moments. Well into a fruitful solo career after the collapse of one of noise music's most beloved bands, Pete Swanson isn't "going" anywhere but his own scorched-earth path. If you can withstand the heat, it's probably worth following him for a bit.
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Tracklist: Pete Swanson - Man With Potential 01. Misery Beat
02. Remote View
04. Far Out
05. Man With Potential
06. Face The Music
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