Justin Broadrick, Kevin Martin and Moor Mother prove a lethal combination on this dubwise take on hip-hop.
It's interesting, then, that their latest LP—under a new alias, Zonal—turns back to noise-influenced hip-hop, a sound they explored at length three decades ago. As well as boom-bap remixes of God and ICE, the duo immersed themselves in this aesthetic via Techno Animal. They've pitched Zonal as a natural continuation of that work. But sonically and conceptually, Wrecked is a more mature work than Techno Animal's last LP, the rowdy, energetic The Brotherhood Of The Bomb.
Most significantly, they have the monolithic voice of Moor Mother, AKA Camae Ayewa. Her cool-headed but threatening lower register delivery is a perfect match for the music. "You brought the violence in here, you brought the silence in here / You helped make God disappear, and left us with blood in the air," she spits on "In A Cage." Ayewa's shifts in energy are as powerful as her lyrics, oscillating between a weary roll, firm declaration and snarling rage. The energy also shifts around her, from the knackered lurch of "In A Cage" to the tough, nasty march of "System Error"—one of the LP's best synergies between MC and producers.
Ayewa's split personas come through strongest on "Catalyst", where she riffs on two feminist perspectives, from the softer delivery of the opening verse ("Since the beginning / Women were second to the men / Condemned in the kitchen… ") to the wicked provocation of the follow-up: "Witches in the kitchen with their poison cackling, in the space gathering / See you ain't never challenging, I had nothing till I picked up the javelin… "
Once Ayewa retreats into the mist midway through Wrecked, Martin and Broadrick strike out by themselves. The title track brings a grungier funk to the fore, filling the space left by Ayewa. It's deathly bleak, but it moves with purpose. "Black Hole Orbit" also exudes a certain swagger, with its rude bassline coming on like a London Zoo outtake. The way the track drops is devilishly understated—the heaviness doesn't come from the arrangement as much as its relentlessly sullen attitude.
Noise is still omnipresent, but it's not as excessive as it was on past records from the duo. Some of the layers within the drones are actually quite delicate, speaking to the fragility that helped offset the oppressive doom of King Midas Sound's Solitude and Martin's Sirens. That can't be said for "S.O.S", which revels in distortion, the beats drowning under a tar-thick slop of sound.
Through "Alien Within" and "Stargazer," the album eventually descends into pure drone, shedding the shackles of rhythm for a pure submission to noise. It's no great shock to hear Martin and Broadrick follow this exit. These tracks are twisted palette cleansers that hang like a disorienting fog after the album's barrage of abrasive, in-your-face sonics. It's one final strike to the senses from two masters of mental manipulation through sound.
Sun / 17 Nov 2019
01. Body Of Wire feat. Moor Mother
02. In A Cage feat. Moor Mother
03. System Error feat. Moor Mother
04. Medulla feat. Moor Mother
05. Catalyst feat. Moor Mother
06. No Investigation feat. Moor Mother
09. Black Hole Orbit
11. Alien Within