Where did sci-fi techno go? These days, it seems that the most listened-to contemporary techno spends its time hanging around abandoned factories rather than dreaming about interstellar travel. Perhaps economic austerity calls for some version of realism, but it's just as likely that computers have made notions of the future seem kind of quaint and attainable. Perc (a.k.a. Ali Wells) has been doing the industrial-techno thing since The X-Files went off the air, which is about three stylistic lifetimes in electronic-music terms. Last year's A New Brutality EP helped define techno's rehardened tone, sporting a grim tower-block image on its label alongside a track titled "Cash 4 Gold," but this remix collection from Chicago's Prosthetic Pressings label actually looks back to the b-side of a 12" from 2008. It's unclear at first why this particular cut is the focus, especially since Perc is not unprolific, but whatever the case, the absence of a clear referent frees remixers Orphx and Desonanz to strike a balance between underlining and annihilating the source material.
Both takes on "Work Softer" draw out qualities in Perc's music that are easy to miss at first glance. Wells can be as grotty as anyone, but there's a latent dubbiness in his production style that keeps the flitting, fluorescent kicks from being merely exhausting. Canadian duo Orphx dives into this side of Perc; bookended by ambient segues, the pair flows organically between a few different ideas, resulting in a stunningly nonlinear version. Without breaking out of a humid grayscale, it makes pocked stainless steel seem almost alive. Desonanz—another duo, albeit one that's only half Canadian—approaches things with a less open-ended agenda on its primary remix and vaguely distinct dub, for the most part brawling straight down the middle. Still, interesting details are embedded deep in the mix, lending a mirage-like depth that asserts itself at unexpected times.