Loudboxer is a strange beast.
While it shows Speedy J (Jochem Paap) working within the techno structure, it also displays just how far both the man and the genre have come. Eschewing the type of hard and simpleminded pummeling that gave techno a bad reputation and rendered it more of a joke than a viable art form, Speedy J explores the experimental side of the genre and reacquaints listeners with the harsher and darker side of the movement. While not as groundbreaking as his first two releases on Novamute (’97’s Public Energy #1 and ’00’s A Shocking Hobby), this release nonetheless demonstrates why Speedy J has such a commanding reputation in the field of electronic music. It builds to a crescendo, akin to the unstable trajectory of some lost space ship that skitters to a pause in flight, before it comes crashing back down to earth.
The album begins with a series of six tracks that reiterate and build on a musical theme. The songs do not neatly segue from one to another but blend seamlessly and relentlessly. This stark beginning with its harsh beats seems a foreshadow of what is to come. Terse and abrupt the rhythms at play on these six tracks seem closer to the austere and clinical precision of Autechre than the Bacchanalian revelry associated with techno. Yet, the music never remains stationary. Rather, the texture and pressure is constantly mutating. Speedy J never allows things to remain stationary for long and the music continues to transform from one shape to the next until it melts apart on the sixth track, “Bihum.”
As a piece of interlude, “Inter Zil” (at 51 seconds, the shortest track on the disk) features snippets of a voice stating: “sound has shapes, I can see them. This is the pause in the storm.”
Track eight, “Kreck,” opens up the last half of the disc. If there was any doubt that Speedy J cut his teeth on electronic music, it is laid to rest here. The relentless beats so characteristic of techno are back. Bristling, taut, and full of menace, this is dance music for a melt down. I can already see the tech heads trying to keep pace as the last of the MDMA ekes out into their system.
Track ten and the next scheduled single, “Bugmod,” ratchets the energy even higher with a rhythm that sounds drawn from the insect kingdom. “Bugmod,” a not incorrect title, skitters and undulates like the time elapsed recording of some strange, unearthly beetle. Completely alien, the song ranges on for four minutes, until exhausted, it gradually dies into a white hiss.
A rewarding album, albeit one that challenges its listeners even as it demands respect. Speedy J has delivered a fine electronic album and raises the standard even higher for those who appreciate electronic music for more than just background music.