Ancient Monarchy, the offshoot of London upstarts Berceuse Heroique, was first summarised as ‘a label for some raw UK shit’. Their second release, Bristol-based Gramrcy’s ‘Ruffian’ epitomises this outline, and then some.
The title track opens with swooping clouds of sonic dust, before a whirring synth loop emerges like an agitated metallic wasp heading into the abyss. A classic Hardcore break is smashed to pieces by distortion – a fragment of its former self. The atmosphere is thoroughly chaotic and claustrophobic; this is what it would feel like trying to clamber out of a bolted coffin in the basement of a sweaty 90s rave. Hessle Audio affiliate Bruce’s ‘RESYNTH rmx’ is a comparatively timid affair and feels unanchored without the weightiness of the previous cut. Where the original churns in your gut, here frequencies are felt in the back of the throat and neck.
B-side ‘Bargain Jam’ continues to slather layers of static hiss and compression, with the percussion and hats so crushed they could have been flattened by industrial machinery. A Fantazia-esque piano roll is hinted at halfway through but then swiftly discarded, leaving only the vital elements to play together at any one time. This is the most reserved of the four tracks and despite the harsh sound design, is oddly calming. Fellow Bristolian Hodge contributes a brilliant Dub Techno remix filled with dirty, skipping toms and laser-like zaps that pierce the mucky aura with great precision. The menacing sentiment doesn’t stop, with Hodge using flange-like effects that resemble jets passing in an air raid.
‘Dystopian’ is a term that gets bandied about but some of these tracks really do conjure an image of frenzied cyborgs partying in abandoned factories. ‘Ruffian’ is brutal, relentless and completely intoxicating – a radioactive late night soundtrack for the darkest, most savage pits of the club.
‘Ruffian’ is out now on Ancient Monarchy. Grab a copy here.
Words: Hugo Laing