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  • Filed under: Review
  • 02/21/2013

The Watchers Alarm People

Don't be fooled by the art for The Watchers' debut EP, as the lazy beach vacation depicted on the cover of Alarm People is anything but indicative of the sounds to be found within its grooves. The first record from the collaborative outfit of South African-turned-New Yorker Brendon Moeller and Dutch techno steward Speedy J is more along the lines of what one would expect—four tracks of marginally psychedelic and dubbed-out techno that combines the former artist's atmospheric sound palette with the latter's looped-up structures. The two strive to bridge the divide between the genre's headier and club-oriented tendencies, or, as they put it in their press release, "possess a spaced-out psychedelic and experimental vibe but also maintain grooves that will adequately keep a dancefloor throbbing. [It's] music to immerse oneself in." But immersion isn't exactly the quality that readily comes to mind while listening, and that dub-techno-esque sense of enterable depth and virtuality mostly feels unreachably around the corner.

"Resonators" is, predictably, a track built around the usage of resonators, with a throbbing sub-bass popping up to accentuate the drums' stuttering attack. The ephemeral blasts hinted at in the title slide in slowly over the beat, locked into place by the wailing tension of feedback. It might read organic on paper, but in practice, it's structurally rigid, which is odd when one considers that the whole project was built around a live jam session in Speedy J's Rotterdam studio. "Mastodon" strives for something more experimental, with a totally broken hi-hat rhythm barely buoyed to the grid by a clicking kick and Rorschach test smears of sampling that rotate endlessly in the background. It's loopy to an extreme degree, with micro adjustments in percussive timing providing the real point of interest across the track's nearly hypnotic, but ultimately too long, six minutes. More trance-inducing—and by extension immersive—is "Restart Moodiness," which pushes its tonal washes deep down into the current of a shimmering drone vortex. There it sputters, joined by ghostly radio tunings and high-frequency percussive noises that almost make the skin crawl. A little more natural, it's less ordered in the way it gradually travels towards its crescendo of creepy shortwave oscillations. Still, there's a human touch at play that makes the track feel like the one outing on the EP where the duo's first goal is fully manifested. Yet the pair's objective once again slips into the background on "Astronomised," which juts out into a mostly beatless industrial sketch of scraping metallic textures and plastic raygun blasts.

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