Despite setting up his own label, ‘Vault Series’, Berlin-based producer Subjected has remained somewhat an enigma. We know little about him other than through his music, which has included notable collaborations with Sawlin, and split EPs with Moerbeck. ‘Zero’ is his debut full-length release and a powerful one to say the least.
The album gets off to an appropriately disquieting start, with cinematic explosions and rumbles - a kind of gunshot to signal the start of what is truly a relentless marathon of thuds and crashes. Indeed, if there were one word to describe this album, it would be that: relentless.
The main bulk of ‘Zero’ is made up of distorted, metallic crunches that fight for room in the mix above the colossal kick sounds that penetrate each track. That isn’t to say the production on the album is bad – quite to the contrary, Subjected uses the enormous presence of the kicks as a stylistic technique to create a sense of claustrophobia and headiness. As each satisfying cacophony builds throughout the album, adrenaline levels rise and conclude with what will doubtless be one of the most severe Techno tracks of 2013, ‘SD1’. Even the EQs and overdrive levels on this album push further than most would dare to venture, permeating the skull in a way that is pleasing for many, but not all. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this album for anyone not up to a challenge.
Nevertheless, the album has some soulful moments, too. ‘Concept’, a personal highlight, showcases Subjected’s ability to provide feeling and delicacy amidst the heaviness, with a subtle interweaving of textures that overlap one another seamlessly. There’s also a refreshing ending to this album; ‘The Throne’ is a down-tempo afterthought with heavy nods to early Aphex Twin, and closes the album on a surprisingly reflective note.
In spite of these interludes, you may want to give your ears a rest after listening all the way through because it is very dense indeed, and could be criticized for focusing too much on ‘going harder’ rather than on sonic variation. However, I don’t think Subjected is necessarily trying to do that here, and this album is immensely enjoyable at points, particularly when the sounds are the hardest. The truth is, Subjected can work an infectious rhythm, and structure gigantic dynamic shifts despite the harshness of the sounds he’s working with. For anyone who wants a master class in the interface between noise and techno, starting here wouldn’t be a bad move.