By Alex Lodge @alexlodgemusic
The image that always comes to mind when I think about Werkdiscs – the shadowy techno label run by Darren Cunningham – is the memory of his musical moniker Actress’ show at St John’s in Hackney last year. It was a fantastically claustrophobic and terrifying performance, during which he stalked the stage, hooded and fiercely mysterious, surveying the dancers before him swaying to the hypnotic whisper of his hissing beats. The Werkdiscs output is so dominated by his asphyxiating yet singular influence that it would be easy for the subject of this review, London-based Moiré, just to have delivered up a poor man’s Hazyville. However, while Shelter includes more than a few classic Actress flourishes, a very personal identity in the process of being developed really shines through the fuzz.
The opening track, ‘Attitude’, sets the stall out with a real statement about Moiré’s approach to techno. The beats pull at the tempo with a woozy insistence, like an old cassette that’s been wound on infinite times until the tape is stretched and slack. Vocal samples that sound like an asthmatic fax machine wheezing through a harmonica slide over the burnished steel of the mix, and shakers repeat their stuttering manifesto out of time with the rest of the pack. The track speaks, and what it says is: ‘Fuck the body, this is head music’.
‘Dali House’ is much more of a mover, with a flat 4 that lifts the mood and offers some variation. This moves straight into ‘Elite / Hands On’, a massive 8 minuter that feels like the concrete foundation of the LP.
In ‘No Gravity’, astral synths sputter and die on top of a bassline dripping in engine grease, hi-hats chitter like sick insects and arpeggiated synths drive the blacked-out truck on through the night.
‘Rings’ has that same thick, greasy bassline topped with shimmering, granulated guitars. This is one of the more dance floor friendly tracks that pepper the space between the druggy fog that makes up the rest of the album.
Moiré’s unique production style consistently holds the interest, giving the impression of trying to orienteer through a broken hard drive with a map covered in digital static. It’s sometimes almost as if he fell asleep stoned while arranging it and woke up in the morning thinking he’d finished it, leaving tracks to just wind down and disappear without a resolution, but this only adds to the appeal.
Stylistically, Moiré himself refers to this music as ‘London Techno’, with real justification. Shelter truly evokes the strange dystopian present of London’s oil-splattered underbelly, the beats and the rumbling sustained sub propelling us through looming tower blocks under the dirty glow of halogen streetlamps on an A road to nowhere.
In places Shelter has that Actress feeling of a scorched Earth where the only option is to survive, and sometimes it raises itself from the ashes and feels truly alive. There’s life in these beats and sometimes even a glimmer of hope. It still definitely forms an identifiable part of the Werkdiscs output, but it seems to have assimilated the best of it and injected Moiré’s own drug addled personality at the same time.
If Actress’ music is the middle of the acid trip where everything is confusing and terrifying, Shelter is the point when you realise that in a couple of hours everything is going to be ok again.