Deconstructed club music from one of dance music's most exciting duos.
Which brings us to Passion, the new double EP from Demdike Stare. Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker are old hands at this type of thing. In 2013 they began to move away from the nouveau horror soundtracks of their early work towards a far-reaching sound with roots in the club. The seven 12-inches in the Testpressing series were usually great and were sometimes incredible. For the most part, 2016's Wonderland album also used the dance floor as a jumping off point. These records stood out from the deconstructed club music pack because the drama always unfolded in a zone that was uniquely Demdike Stare. Whether channelling Goblin or Goldie, the duo's music has tended to exist in a gritty post-industrial soundscape, itself not a novel idea, but it's one they've completely owned. It's a space they return to on Passion.
This place is often a little hellish and chaotic, but some themes and order emerge. For one, the element of surprise is important. At times you might need to check if a new track has started, so abrupt are Canty and Whittaker's scene cuts. "Caps Have Gone" is a metallic dancehall-type thing for three minutes before briefly becoming an '80s adventure movie soundtrack. Is "Pile Up" a mutant UK-flavoured stepper or anxious ambient? It's both, really.
Surprise is also key on a micro level. Canty and Whittaker's use of effects and sequencing often reaches IDM levels of shock and dexterity. They reverse, twist and batter their source material. Spaces appear where there shouldn't be any. The midpoint of "At It Again" finds the duo in full flow, as a cut-up jungle break and a distorted string line perform an intricate dance at light speed. Canty and Whittaker often nail this sweet spot between noodling and forward propulsion. On the excellent, grime-infused "Know Where To Start" there's an endless barrage of tricks and flips, but the beat is kept steady and fierce. Conversely, "Cracked" constantly stymies its beat without lessening its impact (it's fun to imagine this one as a Demdike Stare remix of Kerri Chandler).
With distortion and degradation being the other constant in the world of Demdike, the only possible downside is fatigue. Passion isn't billed as an album, but it's likely to be consumed as one. The Testpressing series offered short, sharp thrills, while Wonderland was slightly calmer and more considered. It might be best, then, to approach Passion when you're feeling extra rowdy, or be happy to listen to it in bursts. Either way, the album shows that even ubiquitous tropes—the clatter of a jungle break, the boing of a grime bassline—can still be used with craft and imagination. It's ironic that something by one of contemporary club music's most inspired acts should be too fucked up to play in a club.