ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Revanchist Technarchy’ – Tyrant X

Everything about Revanchist Technarchy is otherworldly. In the place of individual tracks, there is simply one 25-minute epic. The track – if that’s what you even call it – begins eerily, tiptoeing across the precipice between glitch and IDM. It’s Autreche-inspired, or Xanopticon-inspired. A faint melody – little more than white noise – tightens your limbs and shortens your breath, like nails on a chalkboard. Distorted glitchy drum patterns fade in and out like the war drums of an approaching army, bringing to mind Mad Max’s doof wagon. It’s a full seven minutes before there is a distinctive hardcore kick.

The release is both entrancing and intensely jarring. There are just enough high-energy hardcore kicks to keep a dancefloor going, and there are certainly enough horror film soundscapes to keep listeners intrigued.

In some ways, it reminds me of “conceptronica”. In 2019, music critic Simon Reynolds coined the label conceptronica to describe the recent collision of experimental dance music with art world lingua franca. Reynolds asserts that this music and the ephemera surrounding it – often produced by the musicians themselves – are “as forbiddingly theoretical as a vintage essay from Artforum”. But the intention is benign. “As much as world-building, the impetus is world-changing, or at least world-critiquing”.

What Reynolds astutely noticed was an arms race brewing between artists in the conceptronica space. For the growing experimental festival circuit, multimedia projects and world-building have become the norm. Simply being a musician may no longer cut it. Reynolds argues that this trend differs from the “relatively down-to-earth vernacular” of 90s IDM and the music-orientated raves of yesteryear.

Stevan Hicks, the Melbourne producer behind Tyrant X and record label Nethercords, by no means overwhelms the consumer/fan with dense jargon. The record is not overtly political. But the description on Bandcamp does nod to an end goal with more depth than simply providing the sickest gabber kick.

 Hicks talks of a “psychological cataclysm”, and placing people on a path to “higher understanding” via this first installment in the “catalyst of cataclysm series”. The words give you a sense of Tyrant X’s boldness and help explain the near apocalyptic feel to the music.

The album artwork, produced by Hicks himself, is washed-out and shadowy. It’s like staring into the dark abyss of human consciousness. The green tint reflects a sense of vertigo or queasiness as we peer over the edge. Over email, Hicks talks of the ability of extreme rave music to cause “transcendental experiences” and “awakening”.

The music races ahead at the forefront of dance music trends, leading the pack, rather than following it. Reynolds argues that the defining motif of conceptronica is “the crashing drum – a dramatic effect that sounds ceremonial and regal, but also vaguely punitive, like the smash of a police baton, or evocative of urban unrest, like the tinkling shards of a shattered riot shield… Discontinuities and ruptures replace steady dance beats. This is how club music should sound, it’s implied, in the age of drone strikes and tweetstorms: not lulling dancers into a hypnotic trance, but placing them on red alert.” These crashing drums are ubiquitous in Revanchist Technarchy.

While similar to conceptronica, the release also feels more humble and more accessible than many of the projects emerging in this conceptronica space, even though the music itself is still distinctively experimental. This does not detract from the ambition of the record. It simply makes it all the more powerful.

Even a pair of noise-cancelling headphones will not do the enormity of this music justice. I suspect that it is best experienced live, and preferably at extreme volumes through a Funktion 1 sound system. It’s an aural assault that grabs you by the neck and drags you through a field of barbed wire.

The ethereal, almost meditative chords in the closing few minutes reflect a transition from what was a horror film soundtrack to sci-fi aesthetics – something almost utopian. As a listening experience it feels cathartic, like I’ve shed away the past and come out the other end stronger. 

With kicks on the slower end of the hardcore spectrum, I’ve always thought of Tyrant X’s music as akin to half-wading, half-swimming through a waist-deep Arctic lake. This release is no exception.

Tyrant X has appeared on releases from a variety of labels – from overseas label SEUA Digital Records to Sydney’s own Deep Scan. Founding his own label to platform his unique style of darkcore, Tyrant X has been toiling away behind the scenes for years without garnering much attention. It’s not music that will ever attract a large audience, but I sense that he deserves a big stage. 

 

 

Album Artwork: Stevan Hicks

Robbie Mason
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