Coming off the back of three well received releases over the last 18 months or so is the self-titled debut long player from Akkord, the formerly anonymous pairing of Mancunian producers Synkro and Indigo. Preceded by a cleverly thought out and refreshing promo campaign, that included parts of the album gradually revealed via the medium of Tumblr countdowns, stickers in flyer packs and special hotlines, the album comes with a degree of carefully built expectation attached. Trading in blackened soundscapes that sit at odds with the airy Dubstep associated with their solo efforts, the pairing of Synkro and Indigo as Akkordd nonetheless is another installment in what has been a fine first year from Houndstooth. Dubstep is still a present component across the LP’s near hour long running time, but rather than being of the ambient flavoured variety that many have come to expect from the duo individually, it appears in sullen, eyesdown form here. Harnessing elements of the genre alongside Jungle and Techno influences, Akkord deliver a body of work that is notable for its steely intensity and singular vision.
Starting as they mean to continue, ‘Torr Vale’ finds Akkord slathering on the atmosphere from the offset with an ominous hum and icy Horror movie-esque FX. Eventually settling in to a vague half-step rhythm around the 3 minute mark, this opening cut, much like a large chunk of the album, isn’t preoccupied with danceability as it is with creating an enveloping mood. The icey and unsettling vibes segue into ‘Smoke Circle’, before settling in the background as the duo build a simple but emphatically chest rattling tribal groove. Accompanied by repeated spoken invocation in an unknown language, the track takes on a dark, mesmeric quality that is characteristic of much of the rest of the album’s more focused and ‘danceable’ moments.
Constant descriptions of their solo work as reaching for ‘beauty’ or being ‘picturesque’ must have done something to irk the two members of Akkord, as they consistently and brutally deliver a sonic aesthetic that is unremitting in its bleakness. Not a moment of levity is to be found on the LP, which adds variety through its interesting deployment of a variety genre tropes and tempos rather than shifts in tone. Although certainly not for everyone, listeners of a certain disposition will find cuts such as the head spinningly intense throb of ‘Folded Edge’ to be manna from heaven. That track finds thin breaks dancing frantically above a pulsing swell of Bass big enough to rival early era Loefah. Riding similar grooves are the likes of ‘Navigate’ and ‘Rocendal’ with its weighty Horsepower-esque sub anchoring a 2-Step influenced beat. Playing like a more rhythmically complex mutation of Dubstep, it’s in these moments that Akkord find their niche.
‘Conveyor’ and ‘Channel Drift’ via ‘Hex_ad’ finds Akkord approaching Techno in varied but consistently abstract fashion, the aforementioned palette of darkness present throughout. ‘Conveyor’ sees an off beat bassline coated in levels of distortion befitting of noise-merchant MPIA3, although it somehow never really hits its stride, the rhythm a little too stunted to achieve maximum effect. ‘Hex_ad’ fares much better through the relentless nature of its onslaught, its techno chug being augmented by heavy chords and a growling bedrock of sub. Whilst the quirks to be found in both tracks are to be commended, one can’t help but hear the component parts; the heavy level of bass, the interesting percussion and the swathes of FX, and feel that these admirable attempts at individuality somewhat detract from the potential effectiveness of these otherwise well constructed tracks.
Ending in the hellish blanket of industrial white noise that is ‘Undertow’ bookends the album with a nice sense of closure, summing up the feel concisely. Where many artists feel the obligation to indulge in ill-advised bouts of genre hopping in an effort to tick boxes across the whole length of an album project, Akkord distinguish themselves through their restraint. Certainly they try their hands at a range of methods and techniques, most with great success, but what is most striking about the LP is its strong sense of identity. Their uncompromising approach may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who like their music to come from the most cavernous depths of the darkest of nights this will be a hugely enjoyable album.
Akkord – ‘Akkord’ is out now on Houndstooth – purchase here.