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Blackpepper: "Vqarekk"; Jan-M Iversen & Sound_00: "s/t"

img  Tobias

Even though it hasn't always looked that way, time is on Adam Baker's side. In 2005, he celebrated the founding of the Dirty Demos imprint with the release of a collaborational 7inch between Macedonian jack-of-all-trades Antonio Dimitrov (aka Sound_00) and Norway's Jan-M Iversen. Only shortly after, the label, which started out as a duo, turned into a one-man operation with Baker the only remaining officer. For lack of funding, Dirty Demos was quickly remodeled into a DIY-CD-R company with a busy schedule and an eclectic roster. If people saw this as a conscious decision to churn out as much material as possible, they were mistaken – individual packaging and a recognisable artist roster were and will always be paramount to Baker. And so it should surprise no one that, four years after his first forays into the label business, he continues in the footsteps of the Iversen/Sound_00 EP by returning to the roots of the project.

Much has happened in the meantime as Vinyl has gone from being a trendy underground medium to effectively turn into the king of formats. Well-known artists like Porcupine Tree's Stephen Wilson have openly spoken out in favour of it, leading experimenters such as Daniel Menche have decided to go Vinyl-exclusive. Amidst the surge of 7inches being published at the moment, „Vqarekk“ nonetheless manages to stand out. Harking back to „Iversen/Sound_00“, which came with three-dimensional paint blobs and an almost-real coffee stain, the cover feels simultaneously smooth, silky and sturdy, while Blackpepper's Jason Kerley's, who signs responsible for the imagery himself, finds a delectable middle ground between naive figurism and subversive darkness.

Even though Kerley knows how to fill an entire album to the brim with smart sounds, quirky beats and whack ideas, he is demonstrating an intuitive feeling for the format here, as „Vqarekk“ manages to make full use of the limited space at its disposal. The title track wastes no time with introductions and jumps straight into action. From one moment to the next, you find yourself in the middle of a vortex of meticulously morphing breakbeats, bouncing digital bleeps and playful melodies topped off by shattered fragments of samples. It is only slightly later, that the track dives up for air to build up new momentum on the strength of two pulsating Synth-motives, which will run with and against the increasingly thickening polyrhythms. Before you know it, the machinery has come to a halt and it is time to flip the disc. Even though „Colour/Color“ gets off to a more withdrawn start, it gradually finds its groove. As garish organ stabs bounce off delayed sequencer lines, the music turns darker and more grim, descending into an urban industrial tunnelrave – one could imagine the characters of „The fifth Element“ dancing to this on a night out.

With the release of „Vqarekk“ pointing to a bright future for the label, it should seem an ideal moment to go back in time and re-listen to the aforementioned „Iversen/Sound_00“ EP. Featuring four tracks while clocking in at a mere eight minutes, this is utter minimalism in both outward appearance and creative content. The impact of the music, meanwhile, is certainly no less for that. Always keeping feedback at bay and limiting noise to a single stormy outburst, this is music of great restraint and concentration, like watching a collision of psychotic atoms through a microscope. Something bassy and barrel-like is rubbing against a rush of nervous cymbal noises, grating and grinding sounds of subtle distortion are dissolving in a hoarse, granular tincture and an entire track is being sucked through a ventilation shaft, clutching at straws and screaming to stay alive.

Iversen and Dimitrov are presenting their elements with unerring confidence and indestructible conviction while limiting themselves to just the right amount of time to make you want to come back to them again. In the final episode, the music is all vibration and rawness, and yet it feels tender and almost dreamy at the same time – there is unexpected beauty beyond this horizon.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Dirty Demos Records
Homepage: Jan-M Iversen

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