Bill Converse was late to this party. His 2013 debut cassette, Meditations/Industry, came at the tail end of L.I.E.S. hype, and wasn't widely heard until its vinyl reissue by Dark Entries last year. But the producer fits the "outsider" bill uncannily well. Growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, Converse spent the mid-'90s going to parties in Detroit and Chicago. In 1998, on his 15th birthday, his family moved to Austin, Texas. His musical activities continued in isolation—first DJing, then production. It was only with the arrival of the internet that he could plug back into the international scene.
Converse's tracks relate to those early Detroit and Chicago experiences in the way that the strange mutations of island creatures relate to their mainland parent species. The components are there: classic hardware synths and drum machines, engineered into loop tracks with the psychedelic power of early techno and acid house. But the dimensions have changed. Tempos are lowered and structures elongated, and sludgy arrangements seem geared for solipsism rather than dance floor communion. It's a powerful sound, even to ears tired from half a decade of straight-to-tape hardware jams, and Converse's second album suggests that it's still got mileage.
The crucial change on The Shape Of Things To Come regards mood. Converse's music has always been melancholy, but here it takes on a darker, subtler dimension. On "Thank You," for instance, piano and synth strings make an abrasive acid workout sound elegantly sad. The kick drum on "Currents" isn't so much a rhythmic motor as a harmonic one, forming the two-note pedal to a tearful synthetic ballad. Even Converse's most banging tracks turn reflective at some point in their long unfolding, as with "Dorje Ngodup," whose low-slung funk is deadened by drifting pads. "Position Of Home" opens furiously, with redlining kicks and sputtering white noise, but soon transitions into floating breakdown space.
These careful mood twists show how, in spite of his one-take jam method, Converse rarely loses sight of the bigger picture. This sense of purpose keeps the 68-minute The Shape Of Things To Come engaging. It's even evident on marathon closer "Magnetic," 17 minutes of rolling percussion and fluttering, circling melodies. The track ends with six-odd minutes of near-beatless synth and 303; not a dance record so much as a wistful meditation on one, from a producer who has turned dislocation—both spatial and temporal—into his most valuable creative asset.