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Manifesto for a Future Sonic Programme: Mugako (J.C. )

J.C. delivers abstract and ominous techno soundscapes with a political edge


[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]A[/dropcap]s the summer draws to an end, minimally monikered Spanish techno producer J.C. (Jose Cabrera) presents a release with a chilling subtext, as if to remind us of what lies ahead.

This is no straight-ahead escapist techno release, peppered as it is with abstract and ominous soundscapes with a political edge.

The ambient element of J.C.’s strategy becomes apparent on first track ‘Sendia’. It’s a blend of detuned electronic voices, tense chords and glitchy, slithery details. The fog gradually clears and we seem to be listening in on a CB radio conversation, with a nervous female voice repeatedly asking “Is there anybody out there?”.

The pace begins to increase with the deep, kick-driven ‘Bixi’. The sonic textures deployed give it a distinctive edge, setting the scene well for the following ‘Enaitz’. This is a energised burst of tightly controlled madness and a menacing edge.

‘Apodaka’ is, in more senses than one, the odd man out here. In what seems like an acknowledgement of the old industrial tradition of using topical samples, the track is based around an extended sample of a discussion of this year’s Democratic primaries. The commentator discusses the way in which the process was rigged against Bernie Sanders to a backdrop of subtly smeared electronics that seem almost sarcastic.

As if to shake off the preceding nightmarish media political inertia, ‘Itxaso’ deploys itself. It’s a highly energised slice of driving, mechanical techno. Cyclical metallic textures suggest the kind of urgency and need to act that our contemporary societies are so skilled at dispelling and repressing.

The EP then turns in on itself, with the introspective but insistent ‘Hator’. Here the delicacy of Dadub‘s mastering is almost tangible. A simple, subdued kick holds its own against a slithery acid line and chilled drones, creating an effect a little like 1990s releases by Atom Heart, perched on the cusp of dystopian and utopian.

‘Mairu’ is a brief but powerful finale to the set. The extended introduction is based around a harsh, low level alarm-like sound around which fresh components gradually assemble themselves, only to fade into the digital abyss they emerged from. It’s a serene and uneasy ending that illustrates the uneven but thought-provoking qualities of the EP. It seems to lay out a manifesto for a future sonic programme in which the dancefloor and sample-rich soundscape elements are more tightly integrated rather than being isolated in separate tracks and suggests J.C.’s work can and should become more even urgent and polemical.

J.C. Mugako E.P.
CDr / Digital Download ED05 EP
Semantica Records Exhibition Design Series
Sleeve art (detail) by Trudy Creen


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