Packaged within in a highly convincing replica of a real test pressing, the presentation of Demdike Stare’s Testpressing #001 seems an intentional attempt at humorous misdirection; there’s something undeniably ironic about a record cover asking you to check for distortions in the audio when the musical content of the record is so utterly bathed in savage grit. Supposedly the first of a new series of single releases via Modern Love allowing Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty to indulge their “untamed” side, Testpressing #001 is easily the most bracing thing they’ve done as a duo; quite frankly “untamed” doesn’t even begin to cover these tracks – “unhinged” would probably be closer to the mark.
Although the duo’s dark, plunderphonic approach is often achingly beautiful, their music can often feel a little too measured, especially across the album format they’re used to. “Collision” however offers no such restraint, offering up a swirling morass of squealing analogue noise penetrated by rusty, lunging breakbeats. There are a lot of producers re-appropriating jungle to varying degrees of success right now – indeed Whittaker was doing it years ago as Millie – but none of them, Whittaker included, have come as close as to making the kind of body music that even Source Direct’s shattered eardrums would be able to appreciate as the duo manage on “Collision”.
“Misappropriation” is a little closer to the classic Demdike Stare sound, but only just; although held together with the kind of arid, tumbling Middle Eastern rhythms of previous Demdike tracks like “Conjoined” or “Bardo Thodol”, the treatment is harsh, metallic, and corroded by caustic substances. After an audible period of gentle tuning up at the beginning, an inhuman chorus becomes trapped between an atonal clatter of distorted metal.
Like most Demdike Stare tracks, both “Collision” and “Misappropriation” don’t really go anywhere per se, but with the focus afforded by the single format that doesn’t really matter. Never have the duo made anything that sounded so engagingly robust.