9 January 2013
Function - Incubation (Ostgut Ton)
It's hard to believe that Function's been producing tracks for over 15 years, when he continues to put out music of such depth and variety that it constantly feels fresh. His debut album, released in March on Ostgut is a remarkable testament to Function's ability to stay fresh and relevant and continually incorporate new sounds and dynamics into his work.
Having been working since the techno boom of the early 90s, Function (David Sumner) produced a number of reasonably-well received records, before reinventing himself as part of the game-changing Sandwell District collective around 2006. This time last year, Sandwell released a statement declaring that "As of December 31st 2011, all audio communications will cease", signalling the next stage of Sumner's metamorphosis, which kicked off with the slow-burning Obsessed on Echochord last year. Finally, after six months of news reports and speculation, Sumner at last releases his debut album on Ostgut, and whilst it's perhaps not as widely significant as Sandwell's work, it's certainly one of the more interesting techno albums I've heard in a while. Whilst some artist albums are just a larger bunch of singles and filler, Incubation is a single, cohesive, dense narrative, broken down into individual tracks. Ostgut describe it as "like the soundtrack to a suspenseful Techno-thriller", an apt description that fits with the widescreen sound Sumner's crafted - Function's still making his distinctive long-running techno, with its cavernous synth riffs and reverb-drenched percussion, but each track feeds into epic whole that nods to Carpenter, Vangelis and Jeff Mill's iconic Time Machine.
Feeding into the concept of a soundtrack, Voiceprint is a definite credit sequence; its kickdrum conspicuously absent, and it's arpeggiated repetitive riff creating a paranoiac mood, which breaks open as soon Against The Wall rolls in on highly strung acid squelch, cold washes of decay and solid kicks. Continuing the cinematic feel, the aptly-titled Inter approaches Deepchord levels of washed-out ambience for a second interlude, whilst Counterpoint enhances the widescreen feel by plucking the synth riff from Sandwell's killer Sampler #1 and submersing it in a haze of radio signal and stabbing metallic keys. To some extent, it's Function showing off his influences, dropping in aspects of dub, ambient and industrial, but in his experienced hands, it integrates seamlessly to enhance the techno. However, the withhold-and-tease dynamic can grow frustrating, and Function delivers seriously meaty pay-offs with the likes of Incubation, Voiceprint (Reprise) and Psychic Warfare, which come on like vintage Red Planet - all overdriven kicks, cosmic atmospherics and epic percussion riffs. Whilst this will rightly appeal to techno geeks, Modifier is my standout track - fusing Function's signature sound with Vainio-esque monotones, it's brilliantly dark, gradually shifting from icy fragility to skull-crushing heaviness, whilst riding a sinuous tom pattern.
This is how to do a techno album properly.