Label: Project Squared
Release Date: 18/02/2013
I first encountered Paul Cooper’s Project Squared a little over a year ago, as my eyes fell upon an AnD release whilst trawling through crates at Brighton’s sadly defunct Edgeworld Records. Despite being around since the end of 2009 and being an offshoot of Berlin label Project: Mooncircle, Project Squared had slipped under my radar. I was delighted to have found a newish label putting out original UK techno, rather than just Berlin/Berghain derivatives or noncommittal tech-house. I picked up two Project Squared releases that day - the AnD release, along with Furreshu’s Lucid, and when the promo for Craig McWhinney’s debut 12” for the label dropped into our inbox I was pleased to discover that their quality control remains as stringent as ever. With just eight releases over three years, and over a year since the last one, Make Your Mess is a strong return, and to these ears is a continuation of the label’s slightly leftfield sound (notably a refusal to commit to the narrow confines of four-on-the-floor), whilst at the same time drawing on outside influences from other strains of techno.
McWhinney’s music has primarily been released (digitally and physically) on Melbourne’s Haul Music, a label he co-runs with fellow producers and DJs Mike Collander and Christian Vance, and Make Your Mess _draws on the more syncopation heavy aspects of his releases for Haul. Second track ‘Disengage’ sounds like a less abrasive Regis track, structurally reminding me of polyrhythmic live percussion. _Make Your Mess has a greater sense of urgency, and is darker and more provocative than McWhinney’s previous productions, which have occasionally exhibited deep house tendencies, as on last year’s 12” for Melbourne Deepcast. However, there are strands of continuity. On Make Your Mess _McWhinney may have jettisoned some of the more conciliatory aspects of his sound, but his ear for rhythmic intricacy has been carried across and tailored to the Project Squared template. ‘Provocation is an Excuse’ sounds like a depraved revision of ‘Flow’ from the Melbourne Deepcast release; and as such discloses McWhinney’s ability to translate a cogent aesthetic for the task at hand. The title ‘Provocation is an Excuse’ brings to mind the track titles of Dominick Fernow’s Vatican Shadow. While McWhinney’s scope may not extend to international violence and the military-industrial complex that Fernow takes as subject matter, McWhinney’s title is similarly evocative of conflict, and sonically _Make Your Mess elicits images of war-ravaged terrain.
The rest of the release has a similar air to it – an air thick with unease. However the title track is the lightest of the bunch, and as such is probably the track with the widest appeal. Each instance of the delay laden vocal sample which occurs just twice throughout the track has is like being caught off guard by an occasional passing car on a night drive. Entering into perception suddenly and passing by in a fleeting moment, it disappears out of sight, slowly enough to leave a trace, like fading rear lights remaining in view in the mirrors for a few seconds. The choice of timbres in the track (and across the release) is not unusual, although I found myself surprised by their arrangement. When the bass falls away three minutes in the effect is sobering yet disorientating, bringing all the components into view whilst at the same time leaving the listener unsettled by both the complexity and concomitant sudden clarity. The rumbling percussion and bass of ‘Disengage’ sounds like the far off marching of regimented troops heard through the soil, and the track is propelled forward by foghorn-esque synth stab which gives the track a dub-techno feel. As with the title track, the breakdown of ‘Disengage’ uproots and disorientates the listener in a whirlpool of hissing and swirling highs and mids, before the track emerges from the maelstrom as it reaches a restrained crescendo.
After a year off for Project Squared in 2012 (although _Make Your Mess w_as originally scheduled to be released last year), this holds a lot of promise for the next eleven months and beyond; and I’m excited by the prospect of hearing how McWhinney applies himself to other labels in the future.
Make Your Mess will be released on February 18th.