Ambient music and techno have long been odd bed-fellows. On the surface, they are almost polar opposites in style. The former is beatless and artsy, designed for contemplation ‘in the head’. The latter contains little more than percussion, designed for moving the body. But actually, techno artists have long been incorporating ambient into their music. The style itself has its origins in the ‘chill out’ rooms of clubs for exasperated ravers. And when techno began getting big, moving away from underground 12” cuts and towards the industry standard of full-length albums, producers used ambient ‘breathers’ to help break up the onslaught of drums. Both ambient and techno also share a kind of functionalism. If ambient is ‘furniture music’ to decorate a surrounding, then techno is the music of foundations, the ground on which all else is built. They both aim to facilitate in some way: be that for day dreaming or night raving. Techno for the build up of tension, ambient for its dissipation.
Manni Dee is best known for his brutal bass-heavy techno sets, best heard within a sweat-drenched club at 6am. But there is a more vulnerable, inward-looking side to his music, under the ‘Nuances’ moniker. The Nuances project takes as its focus the minutiae of sound. Beauty creeps in at the most secret of places: the tape hiss, vinyl pops and warped samples inherent within a decaying medium. In this sense, Nuances is part of a lineage in ‘hauntological music’, a style deeply connected to memory, nostalgia and dystopia in contemporary culture. Artists working in Hauntology (Burial, The Caretaker, William Basinski) commit to a kind of political pessimism: atomism can only accelerate, isolation can only intensify, and things can only get worse. The Nuances soundscapes project Manni Dee’s fears of the present and impressions of the past into music that has that uncanny feeling, as if implanting an unpleasant memory you did not have before.
But the latest Nuances release is markedly less bleak. One might even argue that this is a collection of love songs. The track names themselves seem to suggest it at least, leaving clues to a lover, ‘someone to struggle with’, and washing off the dirt of loneliness. But more than this, Nuances has brightened the colour of his sound. This time round, Nuances sounds more confident, more optimistic. The album closes in a sudden cut of sound, as if someone had pulled the plug. But this does not suggest an ending so much as an intermission. There is more to the Nuances story yet to come.
‘Murmurs of a Heavy Heart’ is out January 29th on Tabernacle Records. Pre-order here, and listen to an exclusive stream of ‘We’re Becoming Each Other’ below.