Review: Emptyset - Recur


Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.
- John Cage, 1957

Emptyset is back with their third album called Recur, released on October 28th under the revered electronic label Raster-Noton, sharing catalogue space with Byetone and Alva Noto.

Known for their experimental music inflected with industrial sound, the Bristol duo is made up of American-born sound artist, Paul Purgas and co-founder of the Multiverse family of labels, James Ginzberg.

Perhaps describing their music as “experimental” is a bit of an understatement, considering they were brought together by a shared fascination for the material reality of sound, by employing processed sine wave and creating music by manipulating noise.

Their much-marvelled release of 2012, Medium, was produced in an unfinished Gothic mansion. Extreme bass and feedback were pushed through the house, utilizing the building’s structure and irregular spaces to inform its sound. The skeletal compositions were then fleshed out back in the studio, culminating in its final form with spectacular results. They returned in the same year with Collapsed EP, a ginormous 14,000 square foot live sound experiment at the University of Westminter’s Ambika P3, inhabiting all of its triple-height performance space.

Emptyset’s singular style is a breed of deconstructed, purified dubstep, with liberally processed sounds that echo the atmosphere of ceaseless manufacturing with a suggestion of dystopia. Their sound has been classified as “industrial techno” and that label would not be too far off the mark. The tracks in Recur feature sounds that evoke a sense of being enclosed deep within the bowels of a factory working at full speed, complete with escaping gas from valves. Each is engineered with an uncompromising integrity that you are compelled to respect; the tone is hostile, and unapologetically so. The name Recur is exceedingly apt as it reflects the repetition and symmetry at the centre of the music.

For instance, “Fragment” is the antithesis of melody but instantly gratifies as it sweeps you up in a pulsing, unrelenting rhythm using a variation of sounds you would least expect to hear in music.

“Limit” features unadorned frequencies and glitchiness, interspersed with aperiodic waves of magma. The track is saturated with schizophrenic growls and sizzles enough to suffocate a baby animal.

It takes a discerning ear to appreciate Emptyset’s latest production (read: if you can do without a melodic line, or the traditional bass drop, then this album is for you) but if you can, you will be gradually, unknowingly, elevated to a cataleptic order. This album skillfully toes the line between being artfully abrasive and discordantly mechanical.

01. Origin
02. Fragment
03. Disperse
04. Order
05. Absence
06. Lens
07. Instant
08. Recur