Recon, White Label

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Every DJ knows that the frictive din of two records spinning ever so slightly out of phase can be the most thrilling sound in dance music. The problem is that few DJs know how to play against the grain without scattering the dance floor, so the phenomenon usually restricts itself to a private pleasure: one selector playing records to herself late at night, enmeshed in an elastic web of incompatible beats.

Such is the inspiration behind Recon's engrossing White Label, an album whose title nods at the ostensibly "faceless" nature of dance-music culture, the unbranded grey area in which every track is destined for anonymous integration into the mix, but whose real accomplishment is the depiction of a murky zone in which identity — that of a voice, or an instrument, or even a single sound — dissolves into a tangled churn.

Recon is Chris Coode, and in his better known Motion project, he restricts himself to the more subdued sonic palette — whisper-thin clicks and hum — that's often called microsound. Here he indulges his inner raver, relying on loops of clattering drum machines, acid bass lines and the occasional insistent handclap. But this is a rave that's been particle-shifted — cutting his loops into odd lengths and letting them grind away at each other, offbeats akimbo, Recon's top-heavy, out-of-phase constructions thrum with a pulse that's mostly irreducible to techno's standard 4/4 chug.

White Label offers a field recording of an imaginary territory where loops, loosed from machines, run free. The result is an experience that's profoundly disorienting — you grasp out at voices and drums set adrift, searching for the downbeat — and yet not without its amniotic comforts; once you've learned to do without gravity, every direction turns out to be right side up. Ever wondered what it might feel like to crawl inside a rock tumbler? Here's your chance.