Miles Whittaker has been responsible for some of the most evocative electronic music of recent years. His work with Sean Canty as Demdike Stare draws inspiration from a sinister chapter in British history—the 17th Century witch trials in Lancashire—to conjure images of sorcery set in the bleak countryside of Northern England. His Suum Cique material oozes menacing drones, while Pendle Coven (his collaboration with Gary Howell) and MLZ (another solo project) burrow deep into atmospheric dub techno. He's even explored dubstep and breakbeat with Andy Stott. But no matter what name he records under, there's something uniquely unsettling about his music that draws you in.
Faint Hearted is Whittaker's first solo album as Miles. The producer's stated influences for the record—Aphex Twin, Mika Vainio and Plastikman among them—suggest a broader scope than the focused, conceptual nature of his other projects. The widescreen quality of opening track "Lebensform" seem to confirm this, with rumbling breakbeats swooped upon by distorted frequencies. "Irreligious" grumbles along, an exercise in chugging railroad minimalism, with the same throbbing motif running for nearly seven minutes. The snare roll on "Status Narcissism" is the most overt nod to Plastikman; this time there is a booming techno kick, but it sounds like it's been recorded outside a nightclub.
"Sense Data" marks a shift in the tone, its serene ambience offering respite from the visceral nature of the first three songs. The sombre, neoclassical tone of "Rejoice" makes a mockery of the track's title, the sluggish beat forlorn and out of place as it slows to a glacial crawl. "Archaic Thought Pattern 1" maintains the funereal mood—this time the piano is traded in for strings that slowly erupt into a controlled explosion of noise. "Loran Dreams" feels strangely removed from the rest of the album, its pulsing arpeggios reminiscent of '70s German kosmische. By this point it's clear that, above all else, Faint Hearted is a love letter to the music that has inspired Whittaker down the years. But rather than serving up a cheap replica of his influences, he has blackened them with soot, left them to gather cobwebs, and allowed them to take on a strange, cold and eerily beautiful life of their own.