The buzz around PAN holds the label up as a major outpost for experimental techno. The reality is more nuanced. The bulk of its output is a challenging, historically informed take on the avant-garde, not just noise set to a beat. Bill Kouligas' label is not opposed to fashion, either, but some of its most rewarding listens are austere, at least on the surface. Recording as Helm, London's Luke Younger walked the line separating the harsh and the beautiful on his Impossible Symmetry LP from last year. His latest for PAN, the Silencer EP, is as immersive from front to back as that album's best passages. Its combination of ragged percussion and granular, mangled samples does have a broader appeal than his earlier material, but it feels like a natural and honest development of his core aesthetic.
Given that its opening and closing tracks each last around 10 hypnotic minutes, it's tempting to think of Silencer as a mini-LP rather than an EP. There's plenty to discover here, but the record finds Younger radically adapting the kind of basic, sturdy rhythmic ideas that drive dance music, with results that are more Angus Maclise meets Demdike Stare than Basic Channel. The more open-ended structures he explored on Impossible Symmetry are still present, only they've been locked into bone-shaking dervishes. Much like Rashad Becker's album for PAN used compositional ideas from dance music in the service of sounds one would likely never hear in a Berlin club, the EP's title cut loops a battery of hollow hand drums while a whole weather system of squealing high frequencies and metallic Thomas Köner drones heads off in a dizzying array of new directions. The middle suite of "Mirrored Palms" and "Bergamo" fall back after the intense display, their chilly isolationist crawl suggesting excellent starting points for future Secret Thirteen mixes. "The Haze" closes out the EP on a high note, a razor's-edge hum whose muffled, quasi-human sounds and foot-dragging cadence suggest a lesser-known ambient masterpiece from the Coil catalog. If it wasn't clear before, Silencer puts Helm in the same league as Kevin Drumm; one would be hard pressed to put a name to the musicians' styles, but both have a knack for conveying the sublime and the abject in the same breath.