Slam - Machine Cut Noise
I'm sure Slam need little introduction. If you've not bought their music, then you've surely heard their Slam Radio podcasts? Maybe even visited the Slam Tent at T in the Park? At the very least I'd be surprised if you weren't a fan of the artists they've championed through their revered Soma Records label over the years? It's an understatement to say they're an institution in Techno circles; longevity is their middle name... check this list of releases!
True, their singles and EPs outnumber their albums by around 9/1, but I've always seen the Glaswegian duo as an album group. Perhaps this is because back in 2003 when I'd just picked up their fabric mix, I took it into work and a colleague asked if I'd heard Headstates, which I hadn't and soon sought out. After that I was compelled to pick up Alien Radio (from 2001) and then, in 2004, Year Zero landed! Looking back, I can see now that all this Slam music had played a vital role in my leap from primarily listening to guitar-based music to instead getting excited about all these "new" electronic sounds. For Slam, that was a rich period in terms of albums because since Year Zero there's only been two long players (Human Response in 2007 and Reverse Proceed in 2014).
If you just listened to their albums, Reverse Proceed marked a monumental shift away from the deeply melodic (and often vocal-led Pop) of previous outings, to mature and well-rounded Techno — and no singing. It was like a coming of age moment, they graduated! Only when you hear the massive singles like City Destroyer, We Doin' This Again? and Movement does the leap make sense.
So, Slam are back with their sixth album, Machine Cut Noise, their third in the last 12 years, yet it still feels like they're an album group.
Like its predecessor, the new album has maturity and sincerity stamped all over it. It may not be seamlessly mixed like a DJ set (one of Reverse Proceed's key characteristics) but the eleven tracks are perfectly paced and sequenced. Things begin slowly, continue to build with mild undulations along the way, before a quick cool down at the end. The downtempo moments, like Anagram, Fine and Inauguration perfectly balance the massive emotive tunes, like Psalm and Evite. All the way through, the subtle contrasts in tempo between tracks jerk you unexpectedly, while moments of high tension, like Corridors, Obstacle and Ecclesiastic keep you locked into the vibe (ideal for hitting the zone when you're working, which is always a factor for me).
As the pair celebrate 25 years of Soma Records, what better time to produce their best album!
9/10 after 15 listens
Released on vinyl this Friday 28th October, the digital version will follow on 9th December.