In 2012, Daniel Avery went from promising newcomer to critically lauded mainstay in barely six months, buoyed by a steady stream of puckish EPs on Erol Alkan's Phantasy Sound label and effusive support from the likes of Andrew Weatherall. His sound was familiar but fresh, fusing the anthemic melodicism of classic British rave with the messy hooks of heavyweight 2000s electro. The hype leveled off a bit with the release of Avery's Fabriclive 66 compilation, but he's regained any misplaced mojo with Drone Logic, his debut LP. With a functionality and coherent flow clearly influenced by a packed DJing schedule, what Drone Logic lacks in innovation it makes up for with accomplished production and plenty of earworms.
Avery's inspirations are rarely as contemporary as his wide-ranging DJ sets would suggest, as his tunes take structural and emotional cues from groups like Underworld, Orbital, and especially the Chemical Brothers, whose psychedelic shadow looms over Drone Logic. However, even considering these obvious inspirations, it would be churlish to call Avery's sound dated. The introductory pulses of "Water Jump," juxtaposed with the song's naturalistic staccato bassline, have a magic that immediately sets a vibrant tone, with the cascading melody mixing cleanly into the reverberant percussion and gleaming chords of "Free Floating." Both tracks tread water in loops and splashes, with Avery focusing on mechanistic details to create a steady churn. "Water Jump" is one of four tracks on Drone Logic that have previously appeared in Avery's discography. The trickiest of these to parse is "Naive Response," which began as a "Naive Reception" limited 10", evolved into bellowing acid workout "Reception" on the Water Jump EP, and appears here with added surface noise and a barely contained predatory energy.
Recognizable production tics pop up throughout Drone Logic, but Avery thoroughly manipulates repetitive ideas, such as the use of robotic vocal samples to puncture tension or highlight peaks. Even the downtempo tracks retain a certain level of turbulence, whether it's the luminous tones of "Simularec" or "Platform Zero," a brief, beautiful tangle of synths that appears as a welcome moment of calm—until it's disrupted by caustic noise. The jagged acid, sultry female count-off, and sheets of feedback on "Drone Logic" make for an early peak, although it doesn't quite match the taut primitivism of Factory Floor drummer Gabe Gurnsey's throbbing elemental version from earlier this year. Boosting the album's lagging second half, "New Energy" shoots chemtrail arpeggios over a starry rhythmic core, while the chopped vocal and burbling chords of "Knowing We'll Be Here" make for for an exhilarating closer.
Drone Logic is a fastidious and memorable debut, though the middle suffers from a significant lull in energy. Avery has both the benefit and the curse of being inspired by classic electronic music, but he synthesizes those influences ably and avoids easy pastiche. Tracks from Drone Logic are likely to be played out by a diverse cross-section of DJs, and the soaring synths and bulbous arpeggios will certainly move crowds. Still, there's plenty here to keep things interesting long after the dancefloor has been mopped up at the end of the night.