Available on: Hessle Audio 2×12″ EP

Maybe each genre has its perfect format – the format which, in size, shape, aesthetic and its constraints and possibilities is an ideal fit for where the music comes from and what its saying. Indie had its cute, bubblecard-ish 7”s, techno its anonymous white label 12″s, grime its sprawling DVDs full of off-the-cuff sessions trailing albums and mixtapes that never came. The double 12” pack seems to be the avant-dubstep crowd’s format of choice; think Zomby, Untold, D1, Skream in his more outré, Skreamizm moments, and now Pangaea. And it works – a format linked to the club, but with a length and breadth that also demands headphones at home. Even the weight seems perfect; the solidity and thickness of these releases just feels right – serious, and satisfying.

Pangaea’s latest fits both those descriptors. It’s also sick – deeply, deeply sick. Hearing these tracks bring out clearly how, many years ago, “sick” became a synonym for “good” in London’s rave scene. ‘Dead Living’ is a diseased take on darkside hardcore, a droning rave vamp twisted into a gargoyle shape as the beats gulp, swallow, projectile vomit their strobe lit death march. It’s the kind of track that, if it came on over a big soundsystem, could be so full-on, so all-encompassing, as to leave you nauseous.  Even better is ‘Sunset Yellow’, the climax of which, with its rave divas crammed together into a demonic, wailing ghost-song just takes me over, each and every time. Vocals are critical here, lurking in the background, then jabbing out in frenzied grunts like Trez Demented lost in the tunnels somewhere below Berghain. ‘Why’, the natural companion piece to ‘Sunset Yellow’, chops between some simple, soulful lines to create a fevered deep house cut, underpinned by one of those classic rolling Detroit basslines, but frozen into jagged peaks.

The darkness in Pangaea’s work – and there’s certainly a lot of that – is never easy or simple. Minute by minute these tracks slip into new moods, leaving things tantalising and obscured. Take ‘5-htp’, for instance, which drifts from a wistful ambient throb to paranoid industrial two-step, ending with some sensual blurred keys that could have come from Theo Parrish. And for all that this music drills a hole in your skull and starts playing with your mind, this music belongs in the rave, rushing forward on garage and Funky beats clipped down to the essentials. It’s not perfect; ‘Because of You’ feels frustratingly like a sketch than a fully realised piece, and ‘Neurons’ is a bit, well, silly. But the best moments here are the most utterly, enthrallingly, genuinely hardcore pieces of music. The kind of music that makes you stop and think ‘yeah, I remember now…this is why’.

Simon Hampson



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