What green grass is there still to find in dub techno? Quite a lot, judging by the results. This is partly down to Tiliander letting the music choose its own path and partly for arriving at it from a more ambient and avant-garde perspective. Brendon Moeller also found the pickings rich on his recent Subterranean album. But where Subterranean feels like dub techno trying to fight its way out of an ambient tractor beam without resorting to beats, Time Axis Manipulation is a more wistful stirring at the uncharted periphery.
Beats are present, like on "LFU Skank"—the most conventional track. But the main reference point is dub techno's more mutant offspring, such as Vladislav Delay's Multila or Rhythm and Sound's lengthy track "Imprint." There are no melodies, no patterns, not even real repetitions. The music merely evolves, flowing freely from form to form. Being the longest track at a healthy 12 minutes, "Time Track" in particular impresses for its capacity to constantly find a new face. It's rough and mechanical coda betrays the runs of echoing chords at the opening and the long, drenched reams of sound that stretch out the middle passage.
But even if the forms are organic, the atmosphere is less bucolic. Almost every track feels clotted with pollution and the groaning weight of factory landscapes. Even as you listen for the umpteenth time, however, it's still hard to predict where these songs are going. There are simply too many changes and mood swings along the way. "Rainford," for example, seems most human at first, starting like a forlorn call for help, with echoes of distorted AM radio and pulverised classical music, but the call is never answered by the arriving machines that usher in an abrupt silence.
While Time Axis Manipulation feeds heavily in the confines of dub techno's field, it never feels limited or bound to it. The result is a collection of textures, dark futuristic moods and unstructured sound forms that is difficult to grasp, but all the richer for it.