EBM and techno hybrids that sometimes fall short of Fixmer's best work.
At the start of the decade, Fixmer moved beyond his EBM sound. He found a home on emerging techno institutions like Electric Deluxe and CLR. True to the style of that time, his productions became more minimalist and patient without sacrificing force. The music on Through The Cortex's first half treads closer to this phase of the producer's career. "Shout In A Black Hole" and "Event Horizon" offer heavy, Berghain-ready techno, with emphasis on atmosphere over motion. On both tracks, dismal synths wail and then slowly unravel, while the drums are buried beneath layers of machine-made muck. On "Fury," a threatening piece of cinematic techno, this density borders on suffocating.
The album's second half has a stronger EBM feel, which makes it sound fresher. However, this might reflect a growing appetite for variety in techno sets more than the producer's inventiveness. We want to hear something other than the kind of pummeling, four-on-the-floor techno that has now reached saturation point. Fixmer satisfies this by circling back to his past. "Accelerate" and "Expedition" carry EBM's muscular energy, but it's expressed differently than before. If the producer's music once punched and destroyed, now it's an exercise in controlled intensity. The tracks feature slow tempos, long builds, huge synths and an overall feeling that's both elegant and raw. As usual, Fixmer's rich sound design pays off. The most powerful example is the closer, "Phase Shift," where the sheer immensity of each sawed chord is worth reveling in.
Through The Cortex comes during a fruitful period of Fixmer's career. Leading up to this album, he had an excellent streak of EBM and techno EPs for NovaMute, Ostgut Ton and aufnahme + wiedergabe. The best tracks showed a new range of the producer's creative possibility. "Dance With Comets," for example, is bloodthirsty like EBM but heady like techno, built around a violent synth sequence that causes insanity. This kind of energy and inventiveness characterizes Fixmer's recent club records. And overall, they're simply more exciting than what's here. Through The Cortex sets out with different intentions—less drums, more synths—which results in a classy album. If only it had more attitude. After all, Fixmer's most memorable music is the kind that shouts through the noise.