Mancunian Boomkat-offspring imprint Modern Love certainly has its hallmarks, from the manufactured decay of Demdike Stare to the cold warmth of Andy Stott. One prominent aesthetic of the label is its multiple-shades-of-grey approach that encases and enshrouds much more than embraces its listeners. In the midst of all this lies Rainer Veil’s latest, the “New Brutalism” EP. The names speak for themselves – the duo’s moniker and northern creative roots resonating with how well the release matches with a bed of rainfall, and the title of the EP’s non-abstract representation of the architectural style that serves as both muse and material throughout; even the record sleeve is adorned with it in the form of Preston’s locally iconic bus station.
“New Brutalism” is essentially a dystopia that hasn’t washed away, one that’s become part our reality so much so that it’s accepted as mundane. To listen to the EP is to take a stroll through Chernobyl, to contemplate fragments of a past wrought awry, a future snatched away. Where Lee Gamble’s junglist archaeology would investigate, “Three Day Jag” is an atmospheric experience that doesn’t have you specifically looking for anything. Where Actress’ inner city expeditions would refine details so doggedly the microscopic slides would pixelate, “Negative Space” reveals the surrounding bigger picture at once, the presence of the looming gargantuan structures demanding to submerge you in shadow. Where Burial’s lone wanderings beneath the starlight of street lamps would kindle innate emotion, “UK Will Not Survive” happens to some other entity, and the listener merely observes. The opener’s bluntness is doubly so on reflection, it being the most forthright affair on the EP as layers of ambience morph into sandpaper self-destructively grinding against each other until those initially comforting and familiar bass movements are drowned out completely – Rainer Veil opt to make direct statements rather than express a feeling or challenge inquisitively. They purposely obfuscate the sharp-edged aspects on pieces in the same way different ranges of difficulty are pressed onto videogames to shape a learning curve, and exploring the climate loses priority as it becomes a matter of self-realisation; a slow waking. Sure enough, New Brutalism never seems to consider a room or an abode, or anything inside of the concrete – everything’s outside, ringing out, reflecting off of the immovable, inevitable and inscrutable. Environmental, yet completely inorganic. The feelings perpetrated by this atmosphere are haunting at times, like drum and bass tinnitus that sirens on whim during “Three Day Jag” after leaving the early-hours dance of fading broken beats. Other times, tracks stipulate stop-and-stare moments of rumination more than anything else, most conspicuously present on “Run Out” where memories planted in the surroundings bore their way into the mind.
Rainer Veil may have channeled another, more subversive piece of commentary on New Brutalism, present in their soundset of UKG, jungle and industrial techno. Their seamless juxtaposition of influences is commendable, and for all the different artist comparisons, New Brutalism isn’t really about the duo at all so it doesn’t matter that they haven’t forged a synonymous sound as of yet. They’ve painted a vivid picture and served it in the form of a puzzle, and perhaps their reinterpretation of the landscape (and soundscape) can be considered particularly faithful to the reality. Brutalist architecture thrived in preparation for a future and circumstances that eventually eluded reality, its popularity in turn inflicting its own unintended consequences. In the same way, New Brutalism is a great example which shows how the suppression of 90s rave culture has come to define current trends as genres coexist – nay, conflate – in the same soundspace where the only distinctions between them are the foundations laid by others, echoes of memories which belonged to those before us.
Words by: Tayyab Amin, Photo credit: Thomas Valentine