Review - Soundhacker - Spiked
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Electronic duo Soundhacker are Ben Ramsay and Andy Dolphin, having released on 'Cactus Island Recordings' and the long running ambient label 'Smallfish', the two set up their own label 'Amp Bit to Go' in 2006. Releasing the first three Soundhacker albums - Retrospective Disinformation, A Series of Routines and Backat - the label's roster expanded, and in July 2009 put out an excellent compilation which included tracks by artists such as Pleq, Autistici, Michael Santos and Maps and Diagrams to name but a few.
'Spiked' marks the label's ninth release, and a benchmark in Ramsay and Dolphin's career working together. Looking back on previous Soundhacker albums its clear that this is their most focused work - both in overall tone, and in production quality. Beginning with what sounds like a sonar pulsing, 'Rupture' quickly introduces us to the glitchy mechanical landscapes that unfurl on this album. Fast, intricate electronic beats race over themselves, a slow synth sine wave phasing over the top, reminiscent of Brothomstates, Autechre or perhaps, more specifically older Squarepusher. Elsewhere though, the sonic temperament becomes warmer, more organic - the beats are dropped only to be brought back by a Bola-esque organic sound.
However, there's more here than simple comparison to IDM pioneers of old. 'Dregger' for example, uses its percussive clicks and pops sparsely, closely aligning themselves to the keyboards and synth lines to formulate a rounded, complete piece. Indeed at points, as on 'Phyla Repro', the album turns more epic scifi soundtrack and away from coming close to the dancefloor. This cinematic quality, and photorealistic edge to the music brings to mind images of Darren Aronofsky's 1998 film 'Pi', which featured a Clint Mansell soundtrack that matched the dark, schizophrenic paranoia of the story line. Spiked, although possessing introspective tendencies has enough lightness to it to never quite go too far down the dark path.
Ending on a high, Spiked finishes with the hard hitting beats of 'Rogue Instructor'. Ramsay and Dolphin are true to their form, through and through and manage to steer a focused path through these strange electronic pieces. There's more than enough future sounds here to miss first time around and to pick up on subsequent listens. It will be interesting to see where they go next.