Even for a producer like Untold, who has evolved his sound and realigned his production aims over the past few years, Black Light Spiral is a surprising effort. Billed as his official debut full-length, the eight-track album makes only the slightest attempt to connect to Untold's previous work, instead concerning itself with a sound that is unapologetically raw and intentionally stitched together with a loose thread. In truth, what Untold presents here can hardly be described as dance music, yet the LP still counts as one of the producer's most essential releases to date.
As the story goes, Untold recorded the majority of Black Light Spiral in one impassioned week, and from the opening moments of the album, that surge of creativity can be heard. Black Light Spiral feels as if it is constantly operating at a rush, not because its productions have been notched up to blitzing speeds, but because the music is marked by scorched textures and clipped rhythms, which seem to fight each other as each track unfolds. In an era when the extreme refinement of computer music is—thanks to more sophisticated digital tools—arguably easier than ever, Untold seems to care little about the clarity of the elements in his productions. The individual parts of Black Light Spiral often sound as though they're operating outside of their maker's control, left to dominate or surrender to each other as they funnel into various stereo channels. However, this lack of control is ultimately an illusion; Untold uses these red-lined sounds as a vehicle to take the listener right up to the edge, yet he never tumbles into the abyss. His invisible hand always guides the tracks along a fine, almost imperceptible line between order and chaos.
By the same token, a majority of Black Light Spiral's compositions take on rather unconventional forms. Untold's excellent Change in a Dynamic Environment series and last year's "Targa" b/w "Glare" offered ominous variants of subterranean techno, but they are distant cousins to what the UK producer presents here. Cuts like "Doubles," "Strange Dreams," and "Hobthrush" sound the most familiar, with deep, steady kicks buried beneath each tune's opaque assemblage of smoldering layers. Black Light Spiral's most memorable expeditions though, are built around much looser structures. Both "Drop It on the One" and "Sing a Love Song" appear to be stuck in off-kilter loops bent on destruction, while the closing "Ion" continually carves rhythms into sheets of static, but still refuses to fall into a larger pattern that could actually be followed. Still, what's most impressive is that Untold's concoctions, despite being unfamiliar in shape, never feel vacant of purpose, and their bizarreness in relation to the producer's established material—and dance music as a whole—helps to command even closer attention.
Although surely not intended by either producer, Untold's Black Light Spiral shares some noticeable similarities with Perc's recent LP, The Power and the Glory. Not only do the two records emphasize rough audio and their creators' ability to push production tools to the limit, but on their respective albums, both artists sound exhausted with the current dance music status quo. Fortunately, like Perc, Untold's efforts prove that he has the production chops and artistic vision to sound innovative when he breaks off from the pack. When the dust settles on Black Light Spiral—and there is quite a lot of dust that gets shaken up over the course of the LP's 40 minutes—Untold is left standing as an artist who would rather push boundaries further than make any sort of commercial reach. The act may ensure that he continues to be thought of as a "producer's producer," but it should also solidify his reputation as someone who exceeds the expectations of those keen on following his unpredictable adventures.