Rating: 8 / Format: CD / Label: Raster-Noton

God, if there’s a harder group in the Western world to writeabout than snd then I hate them already. Some background: snd is MarkFell andMat Steel, a pair of producers from Sheffield who spent the lateninetiesreleasing 12” records on their own label (also called snd). They werebasically bleep techno gone abstract, and made tracks that started offsounding like adrunk dude banging some pipes and ended up sounding like 2step in aspacestation. They released some albums, then got into hanging out with guyslikeRyuichi Sakamoto and doing a load of audio-visual stuff (Fell inparticular is a respected video/installation artist) while the discerning chaps who digged Autechre but hadn’t delved quite that deep yet caught up. Come 2008, Snd return to thephysical format, and the world (well, the world of people who know about stufflike Alva-Noto, Boomkat and FACT magazine) were finally ready. They release the limited edition LP 4, 5, 6, and everybodyloves it.

So Atavism, in thesense that it’s the follow-up to the most widely-acknowledged and well-receivedrecord in their catalogue, is snd’s most important album to date. And it, well,it sounds a lot like snd, doesn’t it? It’s more skeletal and minimal thanbefore, which just intensifies the quality of production on show: each kick andsnap sounds razor-sharp, and the synths sound like lasers cutting through ice.As far as doing a lot with a very small palette of sounds goes, Atavism murders 99% of what is generally regarded as minimal techno,both in terms of inventiveness and accuracy. In terms of giving peoplesomething they didn’t expect, I doubt anyone – even those who’ve only heard 4, 5, 6 – will find many surprises inits sixteen untitled tracks. But that’s probably par for the course when you’redealing with a style as frequently faceless (Uwe Schmidt aside, naturally) asEuropean out-tronica: Atavism is aquality addition to snd’s catalogue, and the predictability of its quality issimply a side effect of the group’s reputation for doing this sort of thing sowell, and so often. Oh, and ‘Untitled 10’’s a fucking belter.

Chris Campbell

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