Liverpool's John Heckle rarely strays from his pounding, overdriven production formula, but he manages to incorporate a lot of different styles on his records anyway, particularly in terms of his melodies, which can verge on the otherworldly. Desolate Figures is his second LP after a string of well-received singles, and it contains a welcome set for followers of his approach. While diverse, Heckle does not venture into drastically new territory on its eight tracks. He also largely eschews the fetching interludes that have dotted his past efforts—there is nothing as hooky as "A Basement (Interlude)" (a standout piece from his debut LP, 2011's The Second Son) here. Desolate Figures succeeds at presenting the producer in no-nonsense mode, "all guns blazing," as he says.
There are typically tough tracks here, like the disfigured "Crazy Metal," with its clattering jack patterns, and the dense, acidic undergrowth of "Blindman's Bluff." But Heckle tempers this ferocity with great deal of depth. "Never with You" is also jittery and acidic, but it balances these aspects with pizzicato strings and solemn pads. "Frankenstein's Sweet Nectar" offers the sort of new wave that popped up in Ron Hardy sets, with its boisterous Italo-esque bassline and rusted melodic inflections, while "Something for Your Distorted Mind" balances its caustic production values and rigid, driving rhythm with loose, jangling piano solos referring to gospel and jazz. From the spindly "Love-Lies" to the bumping, bell-laden epic closer "Power of Two," the producer finds ways to keep his familiar sound interesting. It's clear from these moments that in just a few short years, Heckle has already developed into a reliably compelling and adaptable entity. The main criticism one could level against Desolate Figures is that it is simply a collection of tracks, rather than a fully formed album, but for those who like it rough and tracky, this should not matter much.