And so the Autonomic juggernaut rolls on. First we had this. Then this. And then this (albeit from a slightly outside angle). Now it's ASC's turn. He's the guy—James Clements, by name—behind last year's sumptuous, underrated Porcelain / Focus Inwards (of the same label), not to mention some of the deepest mixes to have emerged from the scene. In fact, alongside dBridge, Instra:mental and, to a slightly lesser degree, Consequence, ASC pretty much is Autonomic. Which, for what it's worth, means he's a central player in what's become the most significant mutation in the Continuum since dubstep, or even—insofar as said (sub-)genre successfully assimilates the best bits of dubstep—before.
The weird thing is that, in the period leading up to the release of Porcelain / Focus Inwards, Celements's involvement with D&B's transmutation—politically speaking, at least—came pretty much out of the blue. One day, his MySpace just went all, well, Autonomic. Two exclusive record deals later (one with NonPlus+, the other with Exit), and now he's part of the inner guard. But then, looking back at his prolific 11-year career, what's even more surprising is that this came as a surprise at all: all the ingredients are, basically, there (tempo infidelity, sonic depth, Baywatch pianos—you name it). The only thing that's radically different nowadays is the percussion. Gone are the galloping Amens of 2009's The Astral Traveller (and much of his best work prior to that), replaced by the inimitable Lego-step reductionism of the duo responsible for the whole post-D&B New Wave: Instra:mental.
But whereas the London duo delve deep into the melancholic futurism of '80s electro-pop and synthetic Kosmische, CA-dwelling Clements mines the equally rich but entirely less decadent terrain of classic IDM and ambient. The opening track on Nothing Is Certain, his first full-length for Autonomic hub NonPlus+, sounds like Autechre, Monolake and Selected-era Aphex jamming after World War III (broken but majestic), while the ghostly tranquillity of FSOL's Lifeforms permeates "Yatta's" pastoral meanderings and the epic, desolate tundra drift of "Microsia." Elsewhere, we're treated to shoegazy New Age mysticism a la BoC ("Fade Away"), languid, AGCG-leaning tech house ("Textura"), and, most impressively, a Kranky-esque exercise in bleak, bottomless tonal reverie ("Conversations").
The critical thing is that the frightening array of influences on display here—fusing elements of dubstep, jungle, hip-hop, IDM and techno/electro—makes for a new and compelling dance floor experience. Sure, there's straight-up half-step fare—"Lost for Words" and "The Depths" both offend—but the overall effect is still consistent with the alchemical dynamic. And, in the case of "Absent Mind," "The Ubiquity Incident" and "Matter of Time"—the album's three most engaging dance floor pieces—we're treated to the kind of rhythmic inventiveness not heard since UKG morphed into dubstep, or—to echo a previous sentiment—earlier.
Put simply, the beauty of ASC's approach—and of the Autonomic school in general—is that it synthesises the old and the new in a way that's both respectful and heterogeneous (wildly so at times, but selectively too), while occupying—thanks to its canon-blitzing rhythmic vocabulary—a genuinely autonomous and intriguing position within the wider sphere of EDM. It's mature club music of the highest calibre, for dancers who care about the short but nevertheless rich history of rave, and who've been around for long enough to know that in the endless, tyrannical quest for innovation, the bravest thing to do is look back, take stock and build with care and understanding. You'd be hard pressed to find an album which does so more radically, or elegantly, than this one.
Buy ASC - Nothing Is Certain at
Tracklist: ASC - Nothing Is Certain 01. Midnight
02. Absent Mind
03. Fade Away Sessions
04. Lost for Words
05. The Depths
07. Losing You
08. The Ubiquity Incident
10. Matter of Time
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