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Pye Corner Audio – Black Mill Tapes 1 & 2 review

Ostensibly the work of a mysterious producer called the Head Technician, it would be easy to lump in Black Mill Tapes with the myriad of nu goth/industrial releases in circulation at the moment. Seen on a superficial level, it certainly ticks some of the main boxes. Fascination with the bleakness of life in northern England? Check. Produced by a shadowy studio bod? Yes. Concessions to the sombre synths and sampling of tortured voices so beloved of 80s act Throbbing Gristle? Present and correct.  Compositions like “Transmission One: Lonesome Vale” only serve to reinforce such perceptions, with its ghostly vocals, clanging foundry beats and raw chord changes. But it would be a mistake to assume that this is yet another session in navel-gazing by serious men in black.

“Electronic Rhythm Number Three” starts with a fathomic sub-bass and rattling percussion that progresses into a sublime, spaced out techno groove, while “Building Twelve, Room One” sounds like Regis’s Kalon project, its tightly woven metallic rhythms giving off an irresistible sense of menace. Meanwhile, on “Electronic Rhythm Number Eight”, the Technician tries his hand at electro, with shuffling 808s and power sub-bass fused with the dusty synths that prevail on Tapes, and “Electronic Rhythm Number Seven” features a surging ebm bassline driving its gloomy hooks onwards and upwards. But more admirable than its diversity is the album’s sense of naivety. “Transmission One: Lonesome Vale” is childlike in its simplicity “Theme Number Four” is a wispy, ethereal slice of pyschedelic frivolity and “Theme Number Six” rides a mournful synth line to a world where children in white frocks skip across a perfectly manicured lawn. Trouble at mill? Hardly.

Richard Brophy


Tracklisting:

1. Transmission One: Lonesome Vale
2. We Have Visitors
3. Folk Festival
4. Electronic Rhythm Number Three
5. A Dark Door
6. Theme Number Four
7. Electronic Rhythm Number Eight
8. Building Twelve, Room One
9. Theme Number Nine
10. Transmission Three: Briar Lane
11. Gathering
12. Mirror Sequence
13. Electronic Rhythm Number Seven
14. Transmission Four: Crooked Hill
15. Electronic Rhythm Number Four
16. Through The Kings Wood
17. Recrypt
18. Theme Number Six
19. Toward Light
20. Sine Times Nine
21. Ecneuqes Rorrim