After keeping a somewhat low profile for awhile, Mark Gage has definitely been back in full force over the course of the past couple months. First, he put out the Sonic Residue remix disc in which he took on progressive rock (of all genres) and bent them to his desires (while still leaving in plenty of the original cheese), and now he's back with a completely different sound. Teaming up with Michelle "Punisher" Herrmann of Detroit, Angular Island is a back-to-the-basics, four on the floor rumbler of an album that spans 9 tracks and just over 60 minutes.
Released on the excellent Phthalo label (who helped give both DNTEL and Vladislav Delay, among others, their start), the disc is pumped full of heavy beats and slick, rich programming just ready to help carve up a dancefloor. Recalling the sounds of early Detroit (where Herrmann is from), and the whole minimal techno scene, it's very reminiscent of the bangin' early Plus 8 (where Gage incidentally got his start) releases by John Acquaviva and Plastikman. Herrmann has also played with the likes of minimal spinners (and artists) such as Joel Mull, Cari Lekebusch, T-1000, and Dave Clarke, and that dark, hard edge bleeds from these tracks.
Opening with "Cue + Pivot," the release literally wastes no time starting as a beat creates the first sound heard on the disc and bangs on in an almost tribal rhythm as hi-hats and other clatter file in behind it. Towards the close of the track, it trickles down to only a mechanical sounding breath of a noise, but even that lasts for only about 10 seconds before "Hover + Pounce" starts slamming. With some oddly pitched vocal samples and a slightly warmer beat, the track takes on a bit more of a human feel, but the album follows up quickly with more colder tracks like "Socket + Shaft" and "Frozen Trickle" (which has an especially snarly section of drum programming).
The beginning of "Digit + Diode" adds some weird, almost sci-fi sounds in a rare quiet moment, before the beats again race off with a slippery sprint, building and rolling for nearly the entirety of the track. Like the recent Loudboxer release by Speedy J, Angular Island is raw and there aren't many breathers, and the tracks all flow from one to the other without a hitch, giving the release more of a mix-disc feel. Similarly, it also suffers from some of the same problems, which is that unless you're really into minimal, cold-edged techno, many of the tracks suffer the fate of sounding very similar to one another. It's good to see Mark Gage back again, and it's perfect fuel for a churning dancefloor of sweaty bodies, but it's also hard to not feel pounded into submission by casual listening.