Error Broadcast have had a good year. They’ve been sparing with their offerings, but if nothing else they’ve given us the beautiful melancholy of Soosh’s Colour Is Breathe. Closing out the year they’ve released an album from Romanian producer C L N K, who previously released on the label as Montgomery Clunk. Black Ecstacy, an album of glowering, pulsating electronic music, is an intriguing body of work that both operates within and subverts the well worn tropes of house music today.
The innocuously titled “Shave and Haircut” opens with dark, overbearing bass notes simmering alongside police sirens and the sounds of a highly charged domestic confrontation. Lingering, desolate synth lines hover above hint at melody yet never quite reach it, and the whole thing crashes with a blast of noise before the onset of “Dristor”. Named after a district in C L N K’s city of Bucharest, this track shuffles along on an awkward pattern of plodding, heavy footstep-like percussion, as well as blasting a series of alarm-like pitches. Murky swathes of sound drift below before a jerky acid line comes into focus midway through. Together, acid and bass combine to recall the Sabres of Paradise remix of Red Snapper – no bad thing, we’re sure you’ll agree. Though only the third track, “Tears For Fears” could be seen as the album’s heart and soul. By some way the longest number here, it operates in comparably dark territory, with rattling hi-hats and driving percussion added into the mix. Warm, organic chords collide with twitchy, atonal synths before a blast of horror-movie chords plunges the listener deeper into darkness. Five minutes in we’re presented with an arpeggio riff straight out of classic trance history, seemingly incongruous but working exquisitely. On paper all of these elements just should not work together, yet in C L N K’s hands they fit marvellously. It’s a strange track all told, but who ever said strange was bad? Just to keep make sure things don’t get too intense, “Home” blends found sounds and dark, rubato chords, and just as that ever-present bassline fizz overpowers everything, it all rises in stark crescendo.
“July Tense” is an equally strange beast, especially on an album like this; it’s a banger. Starting with nervous, discordant bleeps, a yawning bassline shuffling percussion, it seems like a resolutely ominous and unsettling affair. Then, as if from nowhere, comes a “falling down the stairs” riff as brilliantly infectious as that of, say, “AC/DC” or “Musak”. It’s a wonderfully unexpected thrill. The title track, however, kicks off with muffled, syncopated chords that would be right at home in any dancefloor anthem, yet there’s something too sparse about it – and then, in similarly unexpected fashion, there follows a gripping acid riff that bears out until the track’s end, at times even evoking, if not imitating, that “nother dimension, another dimension” line from “Intergalactic”. You know what we’re talking about. Closer “CPR” seems like an outtake from The Campfire Headphase that’s been twisted and distorted, its smooth, haunting pads overwhelmed with fizzing bass and uncontrollably uncertain bleeps up above. A ravishing piece of work, it’s a gloriously appropriate way to finish. Dark things for dark times – Black Ecstasy indeed – but never so dark that it makes you want to switch off. Essential.
C L N K – Black Ecstacy is out now on Error Broadcast. Buy here.