There is a formula to the way Damage works. Generally, he lays down a grave beat that, Shed-like, toggles around reverberating 4/4 and breakbeat rhythms. Pads, bass patterns and lead synths slowly emerge from the rumble, configuring in ways that riff on early-'90s hardcore and the mind-bending melodicism of IDM. Swaddled in layers of hiss and corroded gauze, Damage never seems to be simply rehashing the past. He instead repurposes cavernous warehouse techno as something sweet, vulnerable and, frequently, very catchy.
Modeselektor's Monkeytown/50 Weapons family has always dealt in pop-tinged electronics, but rarely with the bravura, melodic sensitivity and maturity that Damage displays on Obsidian. It could've wound up too cute and lightweight, but Damage's music, from those artillery beats upwards, is as serious as is it approachable. He's always technically dazzling—not for intellectual kicks, but to tap into a deeper seam of rich emotion.
The way "Monolith" suddenly inverts into a beautiful torpor of starry, echoing rave stabs and drifting piano is a punch to the soul. The complex countermelodies of "Shimmer"—one effervescent and xylophone-like, the other all keening sadness—contradict each other brilliantly. "Poly," whose melodic strands seem to unspool backwards, is sonically thrilling. And in the Plaid-ish "Pulse Width," the producer pulls off that rare feat of an affecting techno ballad.
Obsidian isn't flawless. The 55-minute album sags somewhat around "Vostok 6" and "Parallax View," and by the time "Trickster" wraps things up, Damage's formula is spread a little thin. Regardless, as the weekend's hedonism turns to the stark reality of a new week, this music is an ideal companion: techno rendered as a big, manly hug.