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Planetary Assault Systems – The Messenger review

Luke Slater is a survivor. Not in the physical sense, even though he has lived enough for three people, but because two decades after the UK producer started putting out music, his latest album features moments where the listener is forced to admit that it follows a path that few others have dared to venture down. Admittedly, there is nothing here that has the same cranium-shaking, head-shredding, apocalypse-baiting intensity as his X-Tront series, but played alongside the current output of his early 90s peers, or the releases by those new school techno producers Slater has so clearly inspired, The Messenger sounds like Hades unleashing its three-headed dog to wreak havoc on humanity.

The main reason for Slater’s ongoing artistic relevance is down to him opting for a new approach. Whereas during the golden age of UK techno he was writing his own rules as he went, gifting the world “Booster”, “In From The Night” and My Wise Yellow Rug”, in his modern-day incarnation he has learnt invaluable insights from the output of those he influenced, absorbing their nuances as a starting point. However, he then applies his own wonderfully skewed thinking, which explains the panning, whiplash rhythm of “Bell Blocker”, a track that sounds both familiar and utterly alien, or “Wriss”, which – unusually for Slater’s techno productions – features a vocal snippet, albeit played out against a lithe rhythmic backdrop and confronted by a rising wall of noise. Invariably, comparisons will be made to other Ostgut artists, but it’s hard to imagine any of them daring to even imagine a track like “Rip The Cut”. In true PAS form, the beats sound like they’re exploding from the speakers as the bass patterns build and build to the point of distortion, tempered only by reverberating claps.

The Messenger also documents Slater’s progress since Temporary Suspension, with “Cold Bolster” and “Call From The East” moving from the digital rush of his previous album to ore analogue, chain-mail rhythmic repetition. But it also succeeds in looking further back in time to 7th Plain on the glorious, tripped out chords and jazzy ambient stylings of “The Railer (Further Exploration)” and the Amber-era Autechre angularity of “Movement 12”. Just when you’re convinced that Slater may be revisiting familiar ground, he delivers the coup de grace: like night descending over a snowy forest, eerie synths are combined with freakish percussive ticks and a lumbering half-beat, and soon the true brilliance of “Beauty In The Fear” becomes audible and Slater’s genius is confirmed once again.

Richard Brophy