he biggest mistake Techno Animal has ever made is when Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick decided on the name of their act. “Techno Animal?” It sounds like something a brain-damaged raver would call his proposed acid-house project. Techno Animal sounds nothing like that however – they’ve been making distorted dub and hip hop for almost ten years now. Brotherhood of the Bomb isn’t a radical departure from this style, but it does display how far Martin and Broadrick have come in crafting their damaged soundscapes.
The biggest addition on Brotherhood are a cadre of underground hip hop MCs, from favorites like El-P, Vast Aire, and Antipop Consortium to hyper-obscure rhymesmiths Rubberoom and Sonic Sum. Rapping adds a crucial dimension to the Techno Animal sound (which can be somewhat static), and the group handles the addition well (Martin and Broadrick worked with many of the guests on other projects).
But what Brotherhood really reveals is how far Techno Animal has come in the realm of production. Martin and Broadrick cull the pieces of their compositions from a variety of places, but then layer on the effects processing so the source sounds are completely unrecognizable. The sounds become electronic drones, otherworldly howls, pulverizing static, and then are melded into harsh industrial soundscapes. These soundscapes are incredibly evocative and meticulously designed – it’s almost a wonder that the duo decides to obscure them with overdriven bass and distorted drum loops. Of course, if I want industrial-ambient flows, I can pop in some Future Sound of London. Techno Animal cares little for any desire for delicacy and subtlety, instead trading in the currency of aggression and intensity.
“Cruise Mode 101” cashes in on these quite well. A big, rumbling beat joins with a wobbly bass line so overdriven it sounds on the verge of collapse. Chicago rappers Rubberoom provide high-speed flows that match the production flawlessly (Techno Animal never fails to effectively back up the variety of rapping styles on the album). Drones, squeals, and some effective CD skipping effects (Oval influenced, no doubt) combine to make an incredibly driving song about – well, driving (incidentally, the song is an excellent one for the highway). Martin and Broadrick immediately slow things down for “Glass Prism Enclosure,” a more textured piece, with a shuffling, syncopated beat, dissonant string chords, and abstract rapping from Antipop Consortium.
The instrumental tracks often pale in comparison to the tracks with MCs, but contain wonderful intricacies as well. “Hypertension” and “Monoscopic” travel down paths of malevolent dub (similar to Scorn), the latter sounding like a wonderfully fucked Pole track.
But the instrumentals are easily overshadowed by explosive numbers such as “Piranha,” with Toastie Taylor blasting ragga-styled flows over a propulsive beat. The result is violent, almost primal, and one of the most stirring pieces on the album. “We Can Build You” comes across as a bit of a let-down – El-P and Vast Aire provide immaculate stylings as usual, but the track is a slower, come down piece. I would have liked to see the Def Jux crew spit over something a bit more visceral.
“Hell,” The final track makes up for any lack of intensity, featuring the criminally-underrated Dalek. A dark subdued beat and some metallic drones assist Dalek’s monotone rapping. The beat drops off for the breakdown, and Dalek’s rap is dual tracked – he verbally battles himself. The cacophony grows – swirling static, sirens, and atmospherics. The rapping slow burns into a fury, and the beat comes back in with full force, assisted by rollicking waves of bass, pitting Dalek squarely against the storm of noise. The hurricane subsides quickly and suddenly, perfectly ending the album.
Brotherhood of the Bomb once again establishes Techno Animal as experts in an exciting signature sound. Fans of uncompromising, blistering beats along the lines of the Bomb Squad, Kid 606, or some of the more controlled Digital Hardcore acts should definitely take note. Martin and Broadrick prove themselves as top-notch collaborators and proficient producers – hopefully Brotherhood of the Bomb’s more high-profile status will pave the way to further exciting projects. Although I’m pretty sure the name is holding them back.
Reviewed by: Gavin Mueller
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01