Imagine what elevator music would sound like if the elevator was on a very dark acid trip. That’s Satin Panthers opening number “Octan”: soprano synths bubbling on top of some very sinister bass lines.
The only similarities between the five tracks are their auditory palette (lots of snares, snyths and strings), and their use of orchestral techniques. Simple melodies are shared between instruments, in a complex, shifting structure. The rhythms are skittish and off-kilter, but oddly familiar. It’s as if the drum machines were playing their own ancient tribal songs.
The pace and tone of the songs varies dramatically. “All Your Love” opens with some twisted strings before slipping into a cut-up vocal sample that would fit perfectly into a garage track. But Hudson Mohawke eschews that, and puts it with a 2-bar drum pattern, some frenetic snares and distorted synths, and it sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before (and yet which you can imagine being very popular 200 years from now.)
The final track, “Thank You”, is the one which best reveals his roots in turntablism. There’s a drum riff which sounds like it was written for a marching band in 1861, and swirling ’80s synths. The structure builds before breaking into frenetic over-excitement, at double speed – the break-beat is strong with this one. He understands his samples viscerally – it’s like watching a surgeon perform a Caesarian and pull the baby out alive.
“Thunder Bay” is very reminiscent of Salva’s Complex Housing – probably no bad thing considering the praise the latter has gathered. The artists are blameless: the albums were produced independently, but in parallel. But this convergent evolution suggests that these two must be on to something – that this could be the next big new sound. After a few years of being pummeled by sub-bass and hypnotized by repetition, it might be time for music that requires concentration.
This isn’t emotive music, but it’s exquisitely constructed, with absurd instrumentation. The play of sound between such disparate instruments is completely unique, and only works because each track is so well-crafted. The progressions are dazzlingly fast, but never leave the listener behind – they’re just swept along by the song.