Drumcell – ‘Sleep Complex’ (CLR)

For stalwarts of the Los Angeles techno scene it may be somewhat of a surprise that Drumcell is only just releasing his debut full-length; not only has he been putting out records since 2004, the Droid Behaviour parties that he runs with Raiz are a firm fixture with the LA faithful, mixing local talent with global heavyweights such as Surgeon and Marcel Dettmann. An American producer whose real name is Moe Espinoza, most of his solo releases to date have been on his own Droid Recordings label but his first LP ‘Sleep Complex’ comes instead on Chris Liebing’s CLR label, the German legend being a long time admirer of his work.

While it may have taken slightly longer than usual, it would certainly appear the album is better off for the late arrival. There are several tracks that could be lifted as stand alone club bangers, but such is the cohesion of the record they simply become the more danceable moments of an engaging voyage that flows seamlessly from beginning to end. It’s sewn together by an ambience of industrial spaciousness and provides the substantial payload you would expect from both artist and label, yet adheres to a warmer air than the cold, bare machinery that can add an edge of desolation to the more austere end of techno.

That said, the opening section is still very much on the imposing side; ‘Disturbance’ and ‘Forgotten Guilt’ move at a slower pace and boom flat, pounding bass through flittering effects and hissing pressure releases, before ‘Behind You’ then picks up the tempo and comes alive with it’s spacestation style synth pattern and ceaseless percussion. This is followed by ‘Speaks Silence’ – a huge, brooding beast that builds on its formidably throbbing bassline with eerie atmospherics and a deep, sonorous robotic voice, creating an immensely powerful track that feels like a machine is speaking to you with the authority of a minor deity.

As we get to the more club friendly ‘Rooted Resentment’ and the meatier ‘Frame Shifter’ the industrial thumping becomes slightly less aggressive, aided by interceding tracks like ‘Fragmenter’ and ‘Dispatch’ which opt out of the heavy stuff and help to calm the intensity that characterised the earlier tracks. ‘Dispatch’ in particular brings the tempo right back to base level, so that when it moves into ‘Empty’ the established atmosphere of the record can be used in a more searching, exploratory way, adding an extra dimension to the album and preventing it becoming one headlong smash.

When the basslines return on the closing tunes ‘Departing Comfort’ and ‘Wonderback’ the atmosphere progresses yet again, becoming more positive and flowing with greater ease. The industrial air that has pervaded throughout the album remains, but it has been successfully transformed from its darker, more arresting beginning, through its more powerful and reflective stages, and eventually reaching this more positive, fluid incarnation at the end.

Drumcell’s craftsmanship in delivering such a transformation while maintaining the quality and engagement of the album is impressive, and there will no doubt be several tracks making their way into record bags all over the world. However, ‘Sleep Complex’ is very much an artist album, and to create such a journey on a debut LP within the uncompromising world of industrial techno shows a touch of genuine class.

‘Sleep Complex’ will be released on August 30th via CLR

Robert McCorquodale

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