Teasdale works with former Vex'd partner Roly Porter, Egyptrixx and Phoebe Kiddo on Assertion Of A Surrounding Presence, and their fingerprints stick to the EP's frosty surfaces. It borrows Porter's startling modern classical dynamics and Egyptrixx's abstract arrangements. The dramatic synth runs and cavernous atmospherics of past Kuedo work conjured images of spaceships in orbit; Assertion sounds like being inside one of those vessels. "Vertical Stack" throws you right into Teasdale's world of sad and lonely electronica, where pan flutes sit next to THX FX and dynamics. At its height, like the automated thrust of "Boundary Regulation," Assertion can bring to mind The Alan Parsons Project: knowingly sci-fi and dead serious about it.
Though the sounds here are identifiably Teasdale's, they work differently than before. Gone are most of the ticking trap drums, which now appear only in passing. The intricate constructions of "Boundary Regulation" and "Border State Collapse" both feature Southern rap's high-pitched scales, though they're completely detached from their original context. And on "Eyeless Angel Intervention," Teasdale revisits his early interest in footwork, but presents it in a fractured, off-piste frame.
In addition to being heavier, Assertion also sounds more real. There's three-dimensional drumming on "Case Type Classification" that sounds like a bongo at one moment and a booming bass drum the next. Sampled machinery churns and clanks elsewhere, and on the EP's eerie climax, "Event Tracking Across Populated Terrain," Teasdale and Porter employ what sounds like an actual bell orchestra. The tension and release of these different timbres feels like a developed version of the Vangelis-style synths Teasdale once favored.
Assertion Of A Surrounding Presence ends with its one nod to the past, when "Cellular Perimeter" and its Lex Luger drums frame a spectacular crash landing. It provides a welcome bout of histrionics on an EP that seems more intent on meticulously setting the scene than reeling you in with memories of Blade Runner. And while this one may not have the instantly riveting arrangements of Severant, it in many ways has a richer, more transportive sound. Like Knives' first release—J.G. Biberkopf's patient, hollowed-out Ecologies—it takes time to feel out Assertion's clattering corridors and dark, unseen corners. But once you get your bearings, it feels like being launched right into outer space.