As Surgeon, Anthony Child has been active in the UK techno scene for nearly 20 years, but he's finding a newfound relevance as listeners look back to "industrial techno"'s first wave. His work has always tended, naturally, toward the clinically precise, counterbalancing the sheer power of his raw textures and 10-ton rhythms. This kind of mastery can reach a natural end point, though: on a mix like 2007 Warp exclusive This Is for You Shits, Child wove his own tracks, as Surgeon or in collaboration with Regis as British Murder Boys, into those of contemporaries like Autechre and forerunners like Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle. Despite the catholic selection, an oppressive uniformity prevailed, making for a listening experience not too far removed from something like Richie Hawtin's similarly masterful but overly consistent Decks, EFX & 909.
Child's latest release is the first under his own name, and further diversifies his recent activities, which have included a return to the British Murder Boys project and Trade, an EBM-leaning collaboration with Blawan. The NNA Tapes release The Space Between People and Things is culled from 16 years' worth of behind-the-scenes electroacoustic experimentation, and breaks from the teleological progression of the projects he's best known for. Untethered from beats, the album's two side-long suites feel intimate, even airy and featureless, though they never settle into a traditionally ambient role. Some of the timbres bear comparison with the harsher end of the Coil discography, but Child's sense of structure (or lack thereof) is all his own. There's something stubbornly individual about these sounds, which metamorphose at will with no hint of narrative. Compared to many tape labels' releases, Child's album—which, atypically, is being released on LP rather than cassette—fails to suggest any reference points. It's guaranteed to make both techno fans and cassette-trolling esotericists scratch their heads, and that's certainly the point.
Even without comparison to Surgeon material, The Space Between People and Things doesn't make a lot of sense: it's too abrasive and disjunctive to be either headphone material or the kind of thing one would put on in the kitchen. Maybe someone could read some dark tarot cards to it. It's not rewarding, at least according to the established value systems of the avant-garde and the techno horde; whether or not that's intentional, it's less of a rebranding effort than an interesting and pointedly disposable piece of marginalia. Perhaps these studies have fed into his main body of work, but more intriguing is the prospect that it's somewhat thoughtless and free-associative, like the slim volume that comes out in the middle of an author's career simply because there's enough interest for even something structureless to exist as long as their stamp is on it. There are miles of droning, acrid synth tapes on the market these days, and a blindfolded taste test wouldn't necessarily reveal qualities to put this album ahead of the pack: it's shit from an old notebook, an effort that's as much about the fact that it can exist as the music contained therein.