Anstam - "Watching The Ships Go Down" (Dispel Dances)
The release of Dispel Dances, the first full-length from Anstam, caps a year in which the German duo improbably re-entered the scene. After two years of silence following three 12”s from 2007-2009, it seemed as if they had fallen into the Hardwax black hole of anonymous, random releases, forever destined to be talked about only among the cognoscenti who were keeping up with things at the time. The best parts of those three records still sound remarkably fresh, and, along with the Hate and Millie & Andrea releases from those years, they point towards a fascinating, hazy junglist tweak on dubstep that has yet to really take root, save for a throwback track or two.
Anstam also have a fondness for IDM atmospherics. Wicked beat structures co-exist with full string sounds and Aphex Twin-esque melodies, which, depending on your preferences, can deaden the impact. Unless it’s actually Aphex Twin or Autechre, I feel that melodic overload is usually ill-advised, as this music gains more from reduction and raw energy. However, the cinematic balance in Anstam’s sound is a feature, not a bug. The good necessarily comes with the not-as-good. Put simply, Anstam do not make straightforward DJ tools. Deal with it, me.
Dispel Dances strikes the same balance as those earlier 12”s, with some brilliant results. The best track on the album, “Black Friesian Monoliths,” weds Anstam’s rugged, whiplash breaks to insistent strings straight out of Psycho. It sounds like the evil twin of a Floating Points track. Elsewhere, “In the Bull Run” roughs up Shackleton and Raime’s tribal patterns while adding some uneasy sci-fi touches. “Bitten by the Snake” pulls an even neater trick by placing a full-on Carpenter synth line into an already wonderfully over-stuffed track.
While some tracks do lay it on too thick, Dispel Dances is mostly an unabashed embrace of style and gut-check hits, something like 50 Weapons label runners Modeselektor might attempt if they were more into these sounds. It’s as fun as dark, atmospheric jungle-step can get.