SSTROM - Drenched
Context for the uninitiated: SSTROM is Hannes Stenström, the driving force behind Swedish rhythm-makers SHXCXCHHCXSH. If you're not familiar with the work of SHXCXCHHCXSH, they make a pleasing but uncompromising brand of Techno. 'Drenched' is a term that typifies the rich, saturated sounds and textures that encompass their music, and it's this shared fascination of rhythm, soaked in the history of electronic music, that connects the SSTROM and SHXCXCHHCXSH aesthetics.
Drenched is a series of three, four-track EPs, not specifically an LP, however while each release can be appreciated independently, I preferred listening to all twelve tracks like an album. Kangding Ray's Hyper Opal Mantis album from 2017 was presented as an album but split up into three phases, and could arguably have been released as three separate EPs to emphasise this, but deeper questions of context, continuity and meaning then arise. With this in mind, as separate releases, let's assume Stenström accepts that these releases can be appreciated independently, without further context. Essentially we have three EPs that explore a shared investigation into the construction of core elements of Techno music.
When it comes to SSTROM's music, this drenched sound can be traced back to Nattbåten from 2016's Fyren EP and Kronofobi from the Otider collection. Ockra from last year's Vitriol EP also hinted tantalisingly at Stenström's ongoing fascination with the fabric of rhythm. Using a steady 133 BPM from start to finish means we focus less on the timing of the rhythm and more on the construction of the beats and the constituent parts of each track. The results expectedly converge and diverge as new boundaries are sought, evaluated and developed further. While there's no 'filler' per se some tracks really zing. In particular, the closing track of each EP showcases more experimental fruits, perverting attention from the floor to the headphones. Drenched 4 is a good example here, repetitive horns are layered to create a secondary, supporting rhythm, progressively sinking, drowning in an immersive, watery glug.
Further patterns like this don't really manifest again though. Some tracks use subtle melody while others drive home the monotony of the 4x4 beat with accomplished flair. A funky, primitive vibe is the prime factor underpinning the music. For example, built on a simple, circular melody, Drenched 9, even with the steady pulse, delivers an appealing organic flow, while Drenched 2, with its single, typewriter-key off-beat, channels a bassy melody, echoing in a wah-wah stylee. This music moves... it's alive and evolving. Opener Drenched 1, creates space through higher frequencies, building layers of sound with a subtle drop halfway through. Elsewhere most of the third EP sounds like the kind of thrillingly morbid Techno JK Flesh has been making of late. All in: a lot to like.
- Rating: 7/10
- Listens: 14
- Highlight: Drenched 3
- Label: Rösten
- Release Date:10th June 2019 (final EP - the first two are already out)