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Senking - Pong

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Artist: Senking

Album: Pong

Label: Raster-Noton

Review date: Oct. 1, 2010

Cologne’s Senking (Jens Massel) has always been something of an odd man out in Raster-Noton’s roster of artists (Alva Noto, Byetone, Bretschneider and the like), a raggedly round peg in a sea of sharp/square-angled holes. His music is roundly lo-fi and gritty, while the label’s sound tends to the sharply processed and pristine. But still, he fits neatly, if improbably, within the label’s minimal, post-post techno aesthetic.

Pre-Raster Massel slipped on the scene in the late 1990s, with an extraordinary series of 12"s that plumbed the bottommost depths of a very abstract, techno-inflected dub. Think a more cavernous Pole 1 without the crispy crackling and you’ll have the gist. The music was epically mysterious, rather obtuse in its lack of linear structure, and absolutely spellbinding.

Since then, Senking’s work has taken a more cinematic turn. Influenced, in particular, by classic John Carpenter movies, such as The Thing, he began to incorporate faint hints of melody, rumbling bass, and even snatches of often half-submerged dialog. This filmic strain was most evident on his last album, 2007’s List, which was also the Senking record that was the least overtly dubby.

To some extent, this latest album, Pong, is a half-step return to early form for Massel, but with a straighter, rhythmic backbone. The album title refers to the classic video game, but there are none of the game’s trademark back-and-forth blips and/or bloops. If I were to hazard a connection, perhaps Senking’s music is meant to evoke the dark void within which the game itself is played. And this is a dark, dubby, melancholic record.

There are still nods to Carpenter, perhaps no more so than on the opening salvo, “Unlighted,” with its arpeggiated piano line, but dub — at its most subdued and ominous — is at the heart of the matter here. The album is thick with mysterious, even sinister atmosphere and unfathomably deep bass. Not surprisingly, there’s much that crosses over into dubstep territory. The fantastic slo-mo bassbin rattler, “V8,” or the brooding and lugubrious, “Mimi,” for example, would not be wholly out of place on a Shackleton record.

By Susanna Bolle

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