From eyes-down bangers like "Memories" to the jerky techno of "Viaduct,", McAuley has long made music that offsets its darker undertones with ecstatic rhythms. His DJ sets, including his banner Fabriclive mix, are heavy on European techno with a spring in its step. That style is exemplified across In Drum Play, one of McAuley's most adventurous and sprightly records yet.
Use your imagination and "Bulb In Zinc," with its wobbly LFO bassline and whip-crack drums, could be a Hessle Audio track from 2008. "One By One" is another with an older flavour—powerful strings, yelping vocals, trembling basslines—and it fidgets nervously, with an almost giddy sense of motion. "More Is More To Burn" is a twitchy, Objekt-style sprint with vocal samples smeared on top like vaseline—a fine encapsulation of McAuley's odd brand of techno. "Skips Desk" has a happy-go-lucky synth that wouldn't have been out of place on an old Numbers 12-inch.
In Drum Play's sound design is excellent, shining through on two shorter tracks that would seem like pointless diversions if they weren't so sumptuous. On the other hand, McAuley sometimes overcooks the music, like on the overstuffed "Lofty Can" or the 114 BPM dirge "Send It In," whose torpid tempo drags the album's momentum down during its closing run.
Maybe the biggest hint of where McAuley's head is at comes at the very end. At 140 BPM, "DNS" could have been a dubstep throwback, nodding to the days when Hessle Audio was still a promising upstart. But it's actually a techno monster, built to rival the more conventional producers that McAuley often plays out. The strength and vibrancy of "DNS" shows that he could have made an album of techno bangers and got away with it. Instead, In Drum Play is a vibrant, diverse record that captures the best of Pangaea's singular style, looking backward as much as forward.