Most pertinently, though, Feed-Forward represents the first full exploration of the Sandwell District sound world. Recurrent themes—ominous strings, jagged synths, metallic reverb—have revealed themselves across the label's two dozen or so releases, and are there in spades on album opener "Immolare (First)." But Feed-Forward's real triumph is in transpositions of the established framework. Few contemporary producers have bettered the inexorable techno blueprint laid down by the collective, but here it's used as a mere jumping off point from which to scale the emotional register. "Grey Cut Out" smacks of Sandwell District (substantial synthesized string section, brittle drum sounds) yet it touches a poignant early '90s nerve hitherto unfelt with the group. "Double Day" portends ambient menace but it quickly gives way to hope—even in its fleeting appearance, the serene 30-second synth solo that closes the track is stunning. "Speed + Sound" finishes the album by flirting with noise-fuelled delirium before pulling back from the precipice and tumbling into an ethereal sound wall.
Despite the experimental expositions, though, Feed-Forward is still ostensibly a techno album. The second part of the three-part opening piece calls to mind Shed's crackling chords and low-end rumble; part three presents the album's most palpable paean to Berghain. While far from breathtaking, "Hunting Lodge" offers alternate cadences and texture through its woody mid-range and sinister synths, although it's on tracks like "Svar" that the techno purview is broadened. Again, the cut bears distinguishable Sandwell District scars, but when before were you invited to feel euphoric in their company?
Regis in particular has talked about the label's desire to escape the perceived disposability of techno by packaging a project's complete and unrestrained vision, and in both sight and sound Feed-Forward is a total immersion in the Sandwell District deep. From a broader perspective you could argue that in this regard the collective are simply aping their DIY post-punk era influences. But in a modern day when most things are easy, free and instant, looking to the past is probably the best way of eliciting an imagined future.