Available on: Honest Jon’s 2×12″

Torsten Profrock has been making music under the name T++ since 2006, using the project as an outlet to deconstruct the breakbeat and to re-imagine the tonal vocabulary of techno – though I dare say he would describe his aims in more humble terms. He has done all this without compromise, in terms of both the music and in the way in which he presents himself, or more accurately occludes himself. Wary of self-promotion and confident enough to let his immense, unknowable tracks speak for themselves, T++ is a genuinely underground artist: his records have created a massive impact with the minimum of fuss or fanfare, and Profrock has never felt obliged to explain his influences and motivations. In a world where the internet grants over-exposure to even the most trifling of artists, T++’s polite unwillingness to step out from the shadows and play ball counts for a lot.

T++ debuted with the ‘Aquatic’/’Storm’ 12”, a natural extension of his previous work for Chain Reaction and obviously influenced by his work with Robert Henke in Monolake. But while Monolake’s material, however boldly percussive, always feels to me like a product of the sound-art (and sometimes, dare I say it, IDM) realm, ‘Aquatic’ and ‘Storm’ had a certain roughness, a soundsystem character, that immediately made them stand out.

This quality became more pronounced on the next 12”. ‘Space Pong’ might justly be described as dub-techno, but whereas most dub-techno tends towards the condition of navel-gazing Basic Channel pastiche, Profrock’s take on the genre – not without respect for its heritage – felt genuinely and restlessly investigative, as if it was striving for, and leading to, entirely new terrain. B-side ‘Space Break’ brought to the fore what would become a hallmark of subsequent T++ releases – wraith-thin breakbeats that seem to interrogate themselves even as they propel the music forward. With a clear nod to stripped-back hardcore and later Photek and Metalheadz gear, ‘Space Break’ felt like jungle-techno truly deserving of the handle, a submerged and static-suffused roller distended and destabilised by 21st century micro-anxiety.

Himself a vocal fan of Shackleton, Appleblim and Peverelist, around this time T++ began to attract a lot of interest from the more progressive faction of the dubstep community, most of them (like Profrock) former junglists intuitively alive to the cyclical, bass-wise orientation of his experiments. The two limited edition 12”s he released in 2007 flew out out of stores, and featured his least choked and most direct tracks to date. The dubby fog had lifted, and finally the brittle, freeze-dried steppers’ rhythms took centre-stage – witness the pulsating neo-hardcore of ‘100 Bar’ and ‘Tensile’’s motion-sick garage flex. It was 2009 before the next 12” of original T++ productions came out, via Appleblim’s Bristol-anchored Apple Pips imprint: two re-tooled archive finds from 1998 driven by sweetly nauseating bee-swarm synths, the A-side a kind of flexing, 4/4 warehouse techno. For a succinct introduction to the brilliance of T++, this 12” is still pretty much unbeatable.

And so we arrive at Wireless, T++’s last will and testament, his longest record to date, and his first for Honest Jon’s. The hook-up with the West London shop-cum-label makes total sense; it has been allied for some time with Berlin’s Hardwax (where Profrock plays a central role) and has released a large number of records curated, remixed or mastered by Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald. They’re all mates. But the real attraction for Profrock was doubtless HJ’s access to the vast, criminally undervalued EMI archive at Hayes, from which it has culled choice cuts for incredible compilations such as 2008’s Sprigs of Time and last year’s Living Is Hard. The inspiration for Wireless is in fact a number of East African 78s from the late 1930s that feature on a forthcoming HJ’s collection, specifically fragments of vocal and ndingidi, a one-string fiddle played in this instance by an obscure musician by the name of Ssekinomu.

There was always a ghostly quality to T++’s recordings, but on opening track ‘Anyi’ in particular the haunting feels actual rather than implied – this is real Heart of Darkness stuff, an almost occult meeting of the ancient and the futuristic. Whereas most techno producers’ appropriation and quotation of African sounds is facile and surface-level, Wireless’s engagement with its source material occurs in its very tissue; the voices and dessicated acoustic textures swirl and reverberate not around but through a tough rhythmic chassis that belies its maker’s love of Horsepower Productions. Even more interestingly, Profrock’s fragmented, unconventional drum sequencing reminds us of the close link, oft-forgotten or at least underplayed, between hardcore jungle and early 2-step.

‘Dig’ is the most percussively fierce and forthright T++ production to date, drums snapping with tribal intensity but also uncommon swing (again, hail Horsepower). Profrock makes taut and true 2-step rhythm sound less like a late twentieth century innovation and more like the product of a lost ritualistic tradition; something which has been knocking around since the dawn of time. To use a word that will probably make me sound like a crypto-racist 30s anthropologist, he really makes that familiar beat pattern sound other, untethering it from history and location and in so doing re-radicalising it.

Its four tracks pressed reverently across two 12”s and clad in beautiful photographic artwork portraying their African part-provenance, Wireless feels like the culmination as well as denouement of this important phase in Profrock’s career. It’s not without sadness that we bid adieu to T++, but it’s a sadness speckled with gladness: I for one am very happy that this unique and questing body of work draws to a close with its dignity and mystique inviolate. That, as much as the music itself, is why people will still be talking about it fifty years from now.

Kiran Sande



Share Tweet