Ultra-detailed IDM hip-hop from big-room specialists Mark Broom and James Ruskin.
While the duo's 2011 debut as The Fear Ratio was impressive, 2015's Refuge Of A Twisted Soul, released on Skam, stepped things up as an LP on the storied Manchester label. The hip-hop influence dripped out of the crooked beats and diced-up samples, every ounce of sound DSP'd to within an inch of its fidelity. You could hear the ghost of other Skam bods like Push Button Objects and Quinoline Yellow, and the looming influence of the original B-boy refractors, Autechre. As The Fear Ratio, Ruskin and Broom sounded genuinely inspired. The music was urgent, playful and accomplished.
Their latest LP, They Can't Be Saved, has the same febrile energy. Once again on Skam, the LP continues where the last one left off. But where the last album reveled in reductionist crunch and brutalist grey pallor, there's a richer melodic sense here. While electronica has always harboured sentimental melodies, the effect here is more wayward. Sweeping notes add a melancholic swoon to the hard-stepping "Exile." The bold arp pinging around "Grey Code" comes from the Richard D. James school of electro weapons, but it's tempered by sad, icy chord blasts.
The Fear Ratio's tracks are loaded with detail. While Ruskin and Broom's techno catalogue also has plenty of excellent material (case in point: their collaborative stunner "Erotic Mystery"), The Fear Ratio is the antithesis to the stern linearity of that music. Every track here is defined by interruption. Even in the starker moments of the rubber-limbed funker "Game Plan," all the elements seem to fill the track space. Though silence and restraint are often celebrated in electronic music, They Can’t Be Saved makes a strong case for a brilliant maximalism.