DJ Spider’s new album is a hot revelation, a refractory slab of noisy techno and deep house. Upon The Gates Of The Great Depth grabbed my attention out of nowhere this morning, leaping from a list of new releases with a sense of inevitability: “I’m going to be really into this,” I thought, seeing nothing more than the abstract cover art. As it wormed its way into my skull, lifting my cheeks in a smile, I realized that I was right.
The album opens throbbing with the sub-aquatic pulse of Drexciya, but quickly enters some outer space turmoil. This is compulsive, looping techno erupting into storms of noise and distortion, running light speed through an asteroid belt. It’ll give whiplash to anyone expecting a more traditional dance experience. All is not harsh, however: there’s a pervasive but slippery heart of deep house in DJ Spider’s work, a sense of belonging and warmth that says you belong nowhere more than here. It reminds me of spiritual embrace of my favorite DJ Sprinkles tracks.
There are moments where the addictive rhythms give way to peals of abrasive noise, like wind whipping over pixelated rocks on a blasted out digital tundra. The effect is more a gripping story than a collection of individual songs, replete with harder moments that give weight to the soaring peaks. The central dynamic pivots between an industrial as it completes a mostly unspoken arc, rising and falling and exploding into new forms over its running time.
A pair of songs on the b side express an apocalyptic viewpoint that feels directly transmitted from the early 90s Detroit techno scene of Underground Resistance and the politically charged rap of Public Enemy or even Dead Prez. The first track, Misanthropy, introduces warm, rubbery bass tones and a static-laden broadcast from some dystopian cityscape; the second, New World Resistance, prowls around hungry, with bursts of real news clips giving way to a narrator from beyond our ruined future. It’s pretty overwrought, as the post-September 11th conspiracy tropes give way to a wizened man intoning just what happened to our world, reminding me of the most indulgent Godspeed You! Black Emperor work. Yet somehow, it’s forgiven entirely, perhaps because of the knowing affection it shows for its influences.
By the time we’ve moved on to Mysterious Structures on Mars, the album has achieved complete liftoff. Giant washes of blue synth tones make for a dreamlike transition into more heady sounds. This is where I feel that sense of expansive spirituality, a oneness laden with infinitely cascading piano notes and sneaker-shuffle percussion that reminds me of nothing less than DJ Sprinkles, the premier producer of deep space house music. When spoken word samples return, notably in a song actually titled Dystopia, they’re abstract sketches, pockets of chilly unease. It’s authentic and earned this time.
After sliding into cavernous, dub-inflected dance territory, the the album barrels toward its crescendo on penultimate track Tribal Mechanism. The tune sounds exactly as you’re picturing, with a controlled percussion assault befitting a cybernetic march through the jungle. The atmosphere of dread is lightened by all manner of synth flourishes, but the real star is the scarily virtuoso drum programming. It kicks with a constantly shifting pattern, piling on fresh surprise while stripping out redundant pieces as it goes. As the final hand drums echo out, we’re left on the shore of the same desolate, rocky place we were dragged across earlier. The thunderous rumbling fades as an entirely beatless passage dissolves the album into nothing.
I had to include the cover art, which appeared like a polite, abstract design at first glance, not unlike the last Jon Hopkins album. At least, that’s what I thought. After listening to the entire album, I took a second look and realized that I was seeing a polarized image of missile launchers. It’s a sly visualization of the apocalyptic soundscape DJ Spider has conjured over the preceding hour. It also reminds me of a certain prolific, political artist.
The album is out now on Plan B Recordings and you can buy it right from the Upon The Gates Of The Great Depth Bandcamp page on 2×12″ vinyl. Note that it’s actually a vinyl-only release for now, but you probably know where to find digital copies for preview purposes if you’re reading this. The Soundcloud sampler above is barely a taste of this beautifully caustic journey.
If you’re not sold on my word alone, trust that if you like any of these artists, you’ll probably dig this album: Holden, Oneohtrix Point Never, M.E.S.H., Actress, Andy Stott, Sandwell District.