Sheffield duo SND broke a years-long silence the other week to release a triple disc album of a truly minimal pedigree (history with Mille Plateaux, plain card sleeve), with nomenclature to match the packaging. Its 4,5,6 refers to the names of the discs herein; the pressing, too, held true to form. Just as suddenly as it was released into the wild it became scarce. Hopefully not too many copies were snapped up by soulless profiteers, as this 300-copy run deserves to be heard by music fans who should have to hand over neither arm nor leg to do so.
Not being overly familiar with SND’s history, the aural journey was one of surprise and bliss. While much was made of UK Garage and Timbaland references by e-merchant blurb, the initial key reference point for this listener was Autechre. Admittedly, many lazy comparisons are made with Messrs Booth and Brown (Kid A), but there is a shared tendency here of musical structures formed from concrete-hard beats through which slim melodic saplings strive to break.
Rather than the ostensibly technologically-motivated work of Autechre, SND’s primary concern seems to be the dancefloor, though certainly not that of your local Flares. The beats on this trio of discs evolve restlessly, but the rhythm is a constant source of propulsion. At many points new, lead, beats enter the mix to both complement and counter the existing ones. The aforementioned melodies snake their routes through these mazes from time to time, though often the percussion is of amply varying timbre to constitute melody in itself.
The record opens with robo-tintinnabulation; fallen angels shredding on harps made of radiators and spanners. It actually reminds of Björk’s ‘Frosti’, albeit having left her Vespertine ice cave and discovered the bright lights of the city. Repetition is the name of the game; music gets time to develop and trance out the listener. There is obviously variety, notably in the shorter, noisier, interludes but the grand narrative suggests a very Steel City sense of beauty within dance music. Essential, if you can find it.
* Not this one, Dave.