Since 2012, South London Ordnance has been cutting fine swathes of dark, no-kissing techno on labels including Hotflush, TEAL and Well Rounded. The Berlin-based Brit, who's loathe to divulge his real name, returns to his own Aery Metals imprint for his first release since March’s industrial-tinged Sex Fortress. The Tor EP doesn’t shy away from the discordant racket of that record’s more full-on passages, boasting its own suite of heft and depth.
Opener "Pale Skin" announces itself with taut, spare drums and a steady repeating tone which has that odd, detuned twang you get from thwacking corrugated plastic tubing against a wall. Slow builds add crunchy snap snares, and a selection of percussion somewhere between the clanking of heavy machinery and the distant din of falling cutlery. The effect isn't jumbled or abrasive so much as rumbling and atmospheric, the mood only heightened by the layered, ethereal vocals throughout the record—and which on this track are reminiscent of Tannoy updates in a foreign airport, heard through a hazy fog of cough syrup and Valium.
This mix of the industrial and the hazy is evident throughout the record and, track-by-track, it inculcates a real sense of place within it. Both "Lockjaw" and the title track feature chilly resonance, bleeping synths, tangy percussion and howling reverb. "Lockjaw" is a more low-key effort, buffeted with piercing theremin snarls of paranoia and alarm. Meanwhile, "Tor" foregrounds murky white noise and thin, ghostly wailing to good effect, although neither track lives long in the memory.
"Bind," however, synthesizes the overall effect of the record to achieve its single most effective unit, a foam of sizzling white noise cutting through with emergency beeps and bells, not unlike a fire drill going off during the climactic battle in a Terminator movie. Poison-tipped bass synths eventually add their voice to the tumult—like a factory planet in mid-revolt, issuing hapless attempts to evacuate its human inhabitants as they're pounded into grainy soup, at the mercies of those vengeful engines they had so long abused.
During Tor’s best moments, for all its bells and whistles, the extemporaneous garnish adds to the robust, meaty chug at the heart of these tracks. Tor EP isn’t wildly or drastically novel, but considered production helps its unity of style rise freely above the bland or derivative.