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Atlantic Waves 11aug09: Planetary Assault Systems

Planetary-Assault-SystemsWhen it was announced that Luke Slater was going to release his latest Planetary Assault Systems album on Ostgut Ton, it hardly came as a surprise. After all, he’d already given them an epic ambient cut for their Shut Up and Dance! Updated ballet soundtrack, and he’s been a semi-regular fixture behind the decks at Berghain since late 2006. But even given his previous record for raw techno and acid as Planetary Assault Systems, it does seem as if Temporary Suspension is Luke Slater’s “Berghain album”—a distillation of his adventures at the club, both in the DJ booth and whilst getting sweaty amongst the muscle marys and party animals. Even the introduction of the record draws direct comparisons to the Berghain experience, with the slow fade in to an already driving beat mirroring the walk up the first set of stairs to an already bulging dance floor.

After the maelstrom of murkiness that is the album’s opening gambit, Slater lures the listener into a false sense of calm with ambient noise and a rumbling bass drum, before slowly unleashing the hissing breaks of “Whoodoo.” It was Slater’s synergy of Detroit techno and breakbeats that first marked him out as a producer to watch in the early ’90s, but this time around he’s opted for a much more Teutonic set of influences, matching up vicious industrial cacophony with Flügel-esque whirring synths.

Things really kick off with the full-bodied bassline of “Om the Def,” a gruff but bouncy roller which is sure to demolish techno audiences across the globe later this year, but some of the album’s most interesting moments come with some of Slater’s more unorthodox experiments. “Hold It” sees the producer combine the Planetary Assault Systems sound palette with a jacking Chi-house template a la Paul Johnson, whilst the face melting bass onslaught of “Attack of the Mutant Camels” has a futuristic grimey feel that should slot right in next to more punishing dubstep and techno workouts. The only relief from Slater’s tenebrous beats comes in the form of penultimate track “Gateway to Minia,” and even that reeks of atmospheric eeriness with its tense triplets and twitching micro-percussion. This definitely isn’t a record for the more faint-hearted techno fans out there, but that’s just one of the reasons that it should be embraced in the current landscape of lighter textures and sounds, especially when it comes to the full-length format.

That said, Temporary Suspension isn’t without its faults: album centrepiece “Enter Action” feels relatively stale with its pedestrian gallop and stereotypical buzzes, and the sequencing could’ve done with a little bit of tightening—especially with album closer “Sticker Men”—which almost seems like an afterthought as its relentlessly charging rhythm appears out of nowhere. However, both of these complaints seem incredibly minor when you think of how this record will be consumed. Techno DJs will get use out of most of these tracks in both peak time and after hours situations, while fans of harder four-to-the-floor sounds will inevitably lap up an entire album of Slater’s hypnotic and engaging austerity. Sit back, press play and get ready to enter the dark side. (Richard Carnes, Resident Advisor)

80 Atlantic Waves 11aug09

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