The recently mothballed Finnish duo Pan Sonic will always be associated with raw analogue tones, dystopian percussion and microwave buzzing… and so will any other artist operating in similar sonic territory. Yet this is the challenge that Sturqen embrace and by and large they pull it off very well. If the music isn't quite as monumentally brutal as Pan Sonic could be, it still has an immense physical impact with some additional dynamic elements. Put simply, if you haven't heard Pan Sonic and you enjoy this then you should. And if you like Pan Sonic then Sturqen is probably the next best thing.
David Arantes & César Rodrigues from Porto release “music that tries to explore a vast amount of sonic intensities where a techno-trance universe is combined with a constant noise attitude.” On this evidence the noise has the upper hand as we're confronted by an eviscerated, brutal(ised), but still rhythmic form of “techno-trance.”
'Pertal' is a dramatic opening structured by stuttering drum sounds, decaying buzzes and a very dynamic pace.
'Xacal' temporarily interrupts the linear flow with a diversion into more experimental territory. The mental picture it creates is of someone dragging metal chairs across a rehearsal room while somebody else tries clumsily to connect a switched-on mixer to an amp. There is a false start to '4 Este' – a few isolated drumkicks, then more chords, before it locks into place with strict and structured heavy Pan Sonic-like bass and drones. Gradually it decelerates and is cut through by a tinnitus screech and raw analogue hum.
someone dragging metal chairs across a rehearsal room while somebody else tries clumsily to connect a switched-on mixer to an amp
'Suner' has a more conventional groove and is less interesting at first but accumulates power in the typical Pan Sonic style but with a wider range of percussion sounds. This is the type of track you could start a set with before building up to something faster and it would be interesting to see how Sturqen's material works on a dancefloor rather than in a gig context. From here we move further away from the Pan Sonic template to the desolate keening sounds of Redoma, which remind me of the NASA radio recordings of the planets you can find online.
The first couple of minutes of 'Cumando' are overtly experimental and sketchy but then a militant fast drum line kicks in, and brings an unexpected trace of Front 242 into the equation. This and its slower and even heavier successor 'Hona' are two of the most impressive tracks. 'Orto' is a more unusual interlude of on/off sonar bleeps and shimmering electronics. On an album of this type there's never going to be a huge range of variation yet this means that subtle changes and differences assume more importance, as is the case with the distinctive throbbing basslines of 'Alganax Nova' which add an additional menacing edge to the decaying chords and queasy background tones.
subtle changes and differences assume more importance
'Avalanxe' is an exercise in audio duress – a set of distressed and (pleasurably) distressing tones that finally give way to a terminal hiss signalling the end. The elements in 'Zincu' are also twisted and mistreated, but the result is something desolately evocative, slightly similar to the bleaker Dr. Who Radiophonic soundtracks such as The Wheel in Space. The powerful and ironically titled 'Tango' is initially structured around a slow and oppressive beat around which analogue power line effects twist and coil before the beats intensify and the frequencies fan out across a wider but still harsh spectrum before abruptly crashing and burning out.
Apart from Pan Sonic the other less immediately obvious presence haunting the album is the massively under-rated Belgian producer Starfish Pool and particularly his epic Amplified Tones album (1995). The way the drones accumulate and the tones decay is sometimes very similar. Again, those not familiar with Starfish Pool really need to familiarise themselves.
The final track '60 73' is a 13-minute epic which unleashes what they claim is a “deep psychedelic attitude.” It retains a strict percussive underlay but also features whooping Theremin-like tones that push against the rigidity of the track's structure. On my first listen itunes kept playing after the end of the album and ran straight on into Techno Animal's aggressive Demonoid which made a strange sort of sense. The more you listen to the album the more detail comes to the surface and the easier it is to get beyond the inevitable but well-deserved comparisons.