Onmutu Mechanicks - "Aspiring to Aspire" (Nocturne)
The "abstract" shadow to Arne Weinberg’s minimal techno sides, Onmutu Mechanicks has the artist dropping his productions in the deep freeze, exploring the many shades of grey that have come to characterize this project’s chosen field, dub techno. The genre’s muted tones were once revolutionary -- think of the heavenly stasis of foundational labels Basic Channel and Chain Reaction -- but almost two decades on, that greyscale palette is starting to feel, well, a bit drab. Never mind the vaguely psychedelic shades on Nocturne‘s front cover; here’s dub techno somewhere close to exhaustion point -- if it hasn’t reached that state already.
Weinberg is neither solely nor fully guilty, mind you. He has a clear understanding of how to make this music, and Nocturne is dotted with moments of seductive pleasure, where you’re lost in the refractory maze of delays, sudden sweeping floods of reverb, and wraith-like, one-finger (non-) "melodies." If the first few tracks feel largely inconsequential, things improve with “Lupus Moon” and “Neutrino,” both glacier-scapes full of frost-breath, huge suggestive spaces pinned down by a beat that’s almost receded into the distance by the time you hear it. Instead of the blissful blizzard of (for example) Porter Ricks’s Chain Reaction singles, this is the pensive penumbra.
Later, Weinberg lets patterns float in and out of sync, essaying a bleaker version of the drumless space navigated in the early ‘90s by artists like The Irresistible Force. On this one track, “Across The Styx,” Weinberg gestures toward an elemental nakedness that could have served the rest of the album well, and I’d be keen to hear him push things further out, really tackle the possibility of a way forward, out of dub techno’s tendency toward stagnation. Ultimately, though, Nocturne is frozen in both senses: its predominant tenor is the cold chill of the arctic zone (which is doubly odd, considering the steamy, sun-warped feel of so much dub and reggae), but just as notably, its many pleasures are nonetheless held in perpetual regress.