Deborah Eisenberg’s short story Twilight of the Superheroes gives us a glimpse into the life of Passivity Man, the world’s most passive aggressive superhero. He sleeps when he’s stressed, chain-smokes constantly, and sports the dismal catch phrase “but, like, what am I supposed to do about it?” as if it means something. Eisenberg is trying to show that it’s much harder to believe in superheroes in a world riddled by inequality, terrorism, Ebola and suffering, and her writing seems like an oddly apt descriptor of Talaboman, who sounds like a cape-sporting vigilante in name only. Instead of providing humanity with something to believe in, the duo of Axel Boman and John Talabot are much more concerned with lurking in the shadows of dingy dancefloors worldwide; mixing a prickly dystopian discomfort with unexpected adrenaline-inducing moments of energy. If the duo were a superhero, it’s much more likely that they’d be some scraggly, unshaven incarnation of Doctor Strange than a do-gooder like Spiderman.
As their first collaborative effort (co-released on Boman’s Studio Barnhus imprint and Talabot’s equally prolific Hivern Discs label), Sideral shows how deftly both producers can make fringe house music with just enough rhythm cementing it together to perk up the ears of the mainstream. Talabot’s recent DJ Kicks mix sucked listeners into a slow-churning, deftly organized hour of oddities (see: the dissonant flute of Samo DJ’s “Tai Po Kau” or seven minutes of Madteo repeating a variation of the phrase “just can’t make it without you”), and Boman has had equal luck spinning weird concepts into gold – 2010’s “Purple Drank” took a pitched down vocal sample and a hoover-esque sweeping bassline and transformed it into one of the year’s most unforgettable tracks.
“Sideral” aims to set listeners reeling almost immediately with a series of rousing handclap-style percussion that sounds like its being slapped out on the top of a kitchen table by a group of drunks. The brassy bass thumps that follow are quite reminiscent of Caribou’s remix of Virgo Four’s excellent “It’s a Crime”, but while Dan Snaith kept things simmering on low boil for the first five minutes of his track, Boman and Talabot dive headfirst into accelerating the “eerie groove” with a damp, mossy minimal synth line sliding around the track’s sharp edges. Its unrelenting pulse is a fitting tribute to Barcelona DJ Aleix “Sideral” Vergés, who passed away in 2006 and whom the track is dedicated to – Vergés was lauded by Boman and Talabot for crossing genres at a time when other DJs feared venturing out of their comfort zones.
The “BCN version” of “Sideral” replaces the original’s frantic handclaps with pulsating bongo drums that stitch together a slightly more DJ-friendly narrative, albeit, one that seems like it could disintegrate into dissonance at any moment. Matt Karmil’s remix isolates the little pulses that Talabot and Boman send rippling through their track, and what begins as a serene exercise in repetition and meditation eventually descends into a corrosive piece of experimental techno that slightly borrows from the drum patterns from Plastikman’s “Spastik” and the incoherent grunting of C.P.I.’s “Proceso”. Though “Sideral” is accompanied by a kind-hearted dedication to Vergés in the liner notes, it’s impossible not to feel a prickly sense of unease creeping over you while listening to Karmil’s version, which is a world away from his more light-hearted fare on Beats in Space Records.
While Talaboman succeeds wildly at making club music that challenges listeners’ sensibilities instead of simply confirming them, it’s tough to say whether the emotion nestled in the heart of “Sideral” is positive or not. Talabot’s recent remix of Hivern Discs companion Pional’s “It’s All Over” posed the same question – Pional’s chilling whisper in the chorus hinted at heartbreak and things falling apart, yet Talabot’s production crackled with the nervous energy of an oncoming thunderstorm. If Talaboman was in fact a real superhero, one wonders whether he would be more interested in saving the world, or standing by and watching it burn.
B. Sideral (Matt Karmil Remix)
Digi only. Sideral (BCN Version)