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Quoit - Properties

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Artist: Quoit

Album: Properties

Label: Quatermass

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

As the 2002 Winter Olympics proved, humans enjoy controversy much more than confluence. Judging scandals, drunken arrests, blood-doping: these actions became larger than the games themselves because they sparked spontaneous, unscripted conflict. It’s the same reason people love a film’s antagonist. Purity and goodwill is great for humanity and all, but evil is flat out sexy.

This is one of the (indirect) reasons Quoit’s (a.k.a. Mick Harris) dark new album, Properties, is so appealing; it rubs you the wrong way. Quoit specializes in hardstep breakbeat with a proto-terrorist vibe that pounds away without respite, rarely allowing the eardrums much time to defend themselves. The onslaught of jagged edges and thumping bass makes no apologies and offers a suitable guerilla antithesis to the asinine resurgence of two-step.

Quoit’s drill ‘n' bass has an understandable and elaborate history. Harris has pulverized ears since the early 1980s when he drummed in Napalm Death. Since then, Harris spawned Scorn, which specialized in the dub-horrific. He also played with John Zorn and Bill Laswell in Painkiller, and ran Possible Recs, which released records by Ambush, Interceptor and the like.

Harris’ dub-terrorist background is evident in Properties via the records’ raw, but meticulous production. Quoit’s mechanical mayhem cuts like a Texas chainsaw, but with the preciseness of a Black and Decker handheld. Harris layers his scraps well, giving his pieces a progression and separating them from the mindless loops of typical drum ‘n’ bass. On “Detour,” the opening tinny breakbeat turns into a freeway of accelerated synths and snares. Harris does not let the loops stand for themselves and manipulates them to keep the music fresh and ferociously unpredictable.

All this is not to say that Properties would not work on the dancefloor. “Cells” features an unsteady break that EQs into a distorted, pitchshifting bass hook before a relatively standard drum ‘n’ bass loop bursts into the forefront and rocks the parti, occasionally interrupted by an eerie piano sample that helps keep the piece’s sinister feel. The album’s highlight and centerpiece is the nine-minute “Close Season.” The piece slowly builds, alternating foreboding bass with solitary high-hat before Harris brings out all the artillery three minutes in and lets his sounds compete for the spotlight.

Despite the perceived chaos, Quoit’s post-industrial groove never disappears. Harris (and contemporaries Techno Animal) restrain their carnage for easily digestible doses and steer clear of freeform noise collages. Rhythms are always of the utmost importance; the main reason Properties can rock your headphones or a packed club of drunk hooligans, not unlike, coincedentally enough, the 2002 Winter Games (It all comes full circle...)

By Otis Hart

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