Surgeon SurgeonBreaking The Frame
Surgeon has always been one to disappear without warning, hiding from the sun and leaving no trace. Over the past ten years Anthony Child has left quite a few gaps in his discography, as if he had decided to call it quits and start doing something else, without saying a word. But the sudden goodbyes, especially since 2000, would always be resolved with a new release, fresh work on which his extraordinary talent for neuron-burning and stomach-turning techno could be admired. The longest hiatus lasted two years, between 2005 and 2007. It may seem short, but between the start of the century and 2005, Child focussed on British Murder Boys, the insane project of masochist techno with digital lashes he did alongside his partner in crime Regis, and during that time, his other alter ego hardly existed, save at some DJ gigs at festivals. Not a trace remained of any records and cutting incisions until, without warning, he delivered on Warp one of the most explosive mix albums ever, “This Is For You Shits”. Around the same time, his remix for Monolake appeared, and the two parts of “Whose Bad Hands Are These”, his comeback 12”s. That Surgeon had transformed, he had become even better.
Four years passed until the Birmingham lumberjack released a new album, and now everything is finally in the right place. There’s no reason why Surgeon won’t disappear again, but our needs have been satisfied for now. We needed a title worthy of placing alongside his superb nineties trilogy on Tresor, “Basictonavocabulary” (1997), “Balance” (1998) and “Force + Form” (1999). Surgeon, as his avid fans know, is synonymous to visceral techno, a bad trip that usually ends up with your guts on the floor. Today’s Surgeon has been tamed, and is no longer as fierce, after renewing his love for turbulent IDM and discovering dubstep, but the intensity is still there. Just as energy never disappears, but transforms (according to the laws of the universe), the old noisy and devastating hard techno has been reformulated via his other great passion, industrial music. What “Breaking The Frame” officially presents, in fine style, is Surgeon’s entry to his phase of maturity.
The flirtation with the experimental (atonal, cutting textures, short ambient phases encrusted with layers of ice), already perceivable on “Force + Form”, are the true novelty on this album. From admiring James Ruskin, Ben Long and Underground Resistance (oppressive and cold), Surgeon has fully crystallised as the answer to the last chapter of Monolake (liquid and turbid). Where there are traces of tough techno ( “Transparent Radiation”, for example), there’s also a fluvial sound (like rivers of mercury and fire, infernal rivers) and sets of rhythms and melodies straight from the golden age of British techno (on that particular track, there’s a melody reminiscent of Orbital, believe it or not). “The Power Of Doubt” and “Those Who Do Not”, ideal club tracks for midnight at Berghain, don’t stay in the cliché of dark techno, either: there’s room for air, even though it’s cold air. And it’s on the rest of the LP (served on impeccable double vinyl; there’s a CD version as well) where the Surgeon appears who sets a distance between his DJ alter ego and gets into the thickness of uneasy electronica. The best thing is, he does it without sounding pretentious. To him, sounding like the edge of a jagged sword or the tooth that tears apart a carotid artery is as natural as to a night owl.
“Not-Two” is an admirable finish: four minutes of heavily contaminated textures which go from chaos to paradise, from comfort to tension: it’s a cliff-hanger, creating uncertainty about Surgeon’s next step. But the record as a whole already anticipates that: clinical Anthony Child cares about electro-acoustic music ( “Dark Matter”, which is the introduction to the whole trip, also traceable on “We Are All Already Here”), the renewal of the source of the Basic Channel sound from rhythm’n’noise schemes that could be Esplendor Geométrico’s ( “Radiance”), citing the minimalist techno of the Pan Sonic school via LaMonte Young ( “Remover Of Darkness”) and his eternal obsession with Coil, the most mystical of industrial music’s history (the esoteric mantra of “Presence”). In other words: Surgeon is in that sweet phase where he’s capable of condensing, in one track, the most elevated of lab electronica with the most monstrous part of techno for raves in the vein of Sandwell District. From now on, we forgive him anything.