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Aardvarck – Anti-Concept review

To call Dutch producer Mike Kivits “prolific” would be an understatement. Under his now familiar Aardvarck guise, he’s released an impressive eight albums since 2002 alone, each with its own distinct vision. Variously, we’ve been treated to quirky beats (the Kindred Spirits-released Pigstyle), Detroit techno reinvented as downtempo bruk (Find The Cow on Delsin) and cut-up dancehall riddims and stoner hip-hop (Love Music on Mochilla). Each successive album revealed a little bit more about the talented Dutchman, not least his occasionally worrying obsession with style over substance.

It’s perhaps notable, then, that the first thing that hits you about this new full-length for now regular home Eat Concrete is its intense attention to atmospheric detail. While each track has its own distinct flavour, there’s an late night urban mood that permeates throughout. It could be the imaginings of a lonely insomniac trapped on the upper floors of a brutalist inner city tower block, or perhaps the soundtrack to too many stoned late night stumbles through vast, empty multi-story car parks; either way, it’s grey, hard and, at times, unfeasibly bleak.

That’s not to say that there’s not warmth or melody amongst this sprawling collection of fully-fledged tracks, sonic sketches and blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em interludes. Some of the producer’s dubwise basslines – particularly those used on the trio of tracks based on previous single Bloom – are deliciously heart-warming, while other tracks boast pleasingly comforting synth lines or glacial washes of sound. Listen carefully and you’ll find plenty of moments of glowing beauty – it’s just that you have to really pay attention to find them.

That’s not meant as a criticism. It’s always going to be hard to make sense of a set that variously touches on smacked-out dub, twisted Afro-electro, IDM, electronica, eerie ambience, eccentric breakcore, post dubstep rumblers, Detroitian futurism and scratchy techno. Yet, bizarrely, Anti-Concept makes perfect sonic sense. The concept itself – that it has no concept, silly – may be a little flawed (i.e. the idea of having no concept is a concept in itself), but it allows Kivits room to spin off in interesting new directions at each successive turn.

So, the spooky, symphonic ambience of “Dik Over Chord” is followed by the brutal rhythms of “Duh”, which is in turn followed by the curious, Autechre-ish IDM of “Gubby” and “Hassel”. And so it goes on. By the end, Kivits is indulging in twisted new takes on age-old hip-hop rhythms and re-imaging “Freak”-era LFO. It does, of course, make perfect sense in context. Basically, it’s an album and should therefore be listened to as such, in sequence, from start to finish. For all the stylistic concerns and schizophrenic programming, Anti-Concept is actually a very good opus. The tracklist might be vast and unruly, but it makes for a thoroughly engaging and entertaining listen.

Matt Anniss