Karl O'Connor is back with his first solo album since 2001.
Influential as those sounds were, though, his music from the last decade feels closer to his personal essence as an artist. Manbait, a collection of remixes from 2010 to 2015, teased out the lifelong love of post-punk and industrial that had always set him apart. Hidden In This Is The Light That You Missed carries on along the same path, delivering nine cuts of elegantly reduced techno with an offbeat edge.
Hidden In This Is The Light That You Missed was recorded in Berlin with Boris Wilsdorf, engineer and producer to the industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten. As with many of that group's records, vivid textures and room sounds give the record a mysterious visual element. Taut, jagged grooves take center stage, while more ambiguous sounds fill the sides of the frame: scrapes, rustles, dings, metal dragging on concrete, as if something unrelated to this recording is going on in the background.
O'Connor treats the techno pulse the same way post-punk drummers did the punk beat: tweaking its structure to create new kinds of energy. The beats throb or wiggle in place, rarely zooming forward as so much techno does. All of them are masterfully sculpted and super-effective. "Cracked Earth" and "Everything Is Ahead Of Us" are, for my money, near-perfect techno tracks.
For such a confident outsider, O'Connor succumbs to some classic techno clichés, from his gravely serious titles to the ambient sketches padding out the tracks. In the last few minutes of "The Sun Rose Pure," when the beat gives way to a warm haze of organs and chimes, you may wish he'd run with this idea for a bit, maybe make this dreamy mirage into something more than a short coda. As they are, though, the ambient bits feel like a misplaced attempt to make this a beginning-to-end listening experience of an album, rather than a pack of techno tracks. As a pack of techno tracks, though, it's brilliant.