Liverpool's John Heckle first made a splash with two Chicago-indebted EPs on Mathematics that certainly owed a lot to the chewed-up electronics of label owner Jamal Moss (AKA Hieroglyphic Being). Not completely derivative, his sound was a bit like Moss if the dreadlocked label boss made a halfhearted attempt to fix up and look sharp, remaining functional and approachable no matter how fried the wires in Heckle's synths became during recording.
Well, say goodbye to that—at least for now—because Heckle's debut album is anything but "functional." The English producer instead takes advantage of the full-length format to let himself be pulled in whatever direction his whims take him. Track lengths veer from two minutes to seven with no real holding pattern, as if Heckle were jamming on his hardware as long as he could before it simply burned out. Sometimes the beats are hard to locate, like in the pseudo-industrial distorted stomper "A Basement Interlude," or simply not there at all in the glazed-over Aphexisms of "Nothing Can Last Forever."
A good way to understand Heckle's sound here is to look at a track like "Counting Down to Infinity," where an array of high-pitched drum sounds, chimes and synths twinkle and bang into each other as if they're being played at random, while something resembling a beat rumbles below. It's as pretty as it is abrasive, beautiful but frighteningly unhinged. When Heckle does go for more dance floor-oriented material on The Second Son, it's not always Chicago house throwbacks; highlight "The Voyager (Voyeur)" subsumes vintage Detroit electro for a full-bodied, moisture-heavy synth workout, while "Inside Me" sounds like a vintage Rhythim Is Rhythim 12-inch fed through a paper shredder.
Despite the blown speaker aesthetic, The Second Son also contains Heckle's most detailed and measured work yet. The luscious "Lunik (The Dream)" has washes of synth that feel like they're just under the verge of being in the red, with Heckle holding everything just barely under the boiling point for five minutes of pure anticipation. The album is a work of contradictions—if you hadn't gotten that yet—and like Mathematics as a whole it's almost frighteningly damaged but irresistible all the same. To hear someone like Heckle given free rein to move outside of the 12-inch format makes sense. That he can work so well within both frameworks means a lot for his future as both a dance music producer and artist.
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Tracklist: John Heckle - The Second Son A1 If One Second Were A Million Years
A2 Counting Down To Infinity
A3 Voyager (Voyeur)
B1 Nothing Can Last Forever
B2 Lunik (The Dream)
B3 A Basement Interlude
C1 Atomic Response
C2 Inside Me
D1 Red Defender
D2 The Second Son