Kruton appeared occasionally on Unexplored Beats and Dissident before resurfacing in 2015 with a release on Wrong Era. In the meantime, he'd been busy making a psychedelic party racket in the band Chrome Hoof and then launching the Power Vacuum label. (He'd also adopted another alias, Bintus.) Smee seems most comfortable outside the functional professionalism of careerist techno, switching styles on a whim and favouring the sort of irreverent experimentation captured on last year's collaborative EP with the New York rapper Sensational.
Smee now releases the first Kruton album, 19 years after starting the alias. I, Pathetikus's tracks were made between 1996 and 2004. As such, those already familiar with the early Kruton material should slip easily into the album's vibe. One of the notable qualities about this side to Smee's output, though, is its immediacy. Kruton beats and riffs are upfront, and sound all the more fun for it.
Take the bassline on "Copper Seizure," which could have been lifted from an MS-DOS computer game, or the grinding synth on "Reassuringly Depressing"—there are no hidden layers to decode when these sounds hit your ears. There is space for some more artful sound design, as on the high frequency squish of "Pleasure Industry," but it's framed in a wonderfully simple kick-snare-hat stomp.
There are, however, a few qualities that make the Kruton sound stand out. One is the powerful signal chain that makes these primal elements smack hard. Smee also has a knack for edging weirdness into his arrangements in subtle ways. But the strongest feature of I, Pathetikus is the sense of mischief that seems to power it. The way that garish parts flick in and out of the mix gives the impression of a cavalier studio approach that chimes with Smee's other musical ventures. That spirit is infectious.