Review Summary: You're a cog in their machine
A collaboration between Godflesh vocalist Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin aka The Bug, Techno Animal take hip hop as you know it to noiser, heavier and downright dirtier places, layering their beats with distorted waves of crushing sound and employing MC's to spit fury over the grimy, relentlessly dark soundscapes. In many ways, this album acted as a predecessor to Death Grips' domination of the alternative music scene, fusing aggressively shouted rapping (not unusual) with almost overwhelmingly bassy beats spliced with feedback-laced noise (fairly unusual). The track where this most seems to be the case is DC 10, featuring an abhorrent-sounding hook in which Sonic Sum's normally competent grasp of rhythm descends into random grunts, groans and roars that, while not sounding amiss amidst such hostile, brutal tribal drumming and ominous synths, are a little jarring after a more comprehensible verse.
But honestly it's very difficult to care what the vocalists are saying here anyway. The most lyrical guest here is El-P, who once again proves his worth as a rapper but just unfortunately just expels as much random jargon as he can in an effort to fill space over one of the album's least memorable instrumentals. Cruise Mode 101 features the most industrial beat on the whole record and fails to halt its own relentless stomp for a full five minutes, while Rubberoom takes on more than he can handle and ends up mostly drowned out. To be honest, it's rare that both the beat and flows on a vocal-led song are simultaneously up to scratch, with Piranha missing the mark with monotonous ragga babbling but embracing a creepy atmosphere reminiscent of The Prodigy, while Anti Pop Consortium deliver some of the only genuinely impressive bars here over a droning bassline that fails to pick up on Glass Prism Enclosure.
Luckily, the band didn't completely neglect their previously established talents amongst typical sounding hip-hop tunes. Robosapien is a percussion onslaught that builds its tension like a jenga tower before letting the entire thing noisily fall apart. Sub Species is a pulsating, harsh noise-addled monster that feels like it's been crammed into a box far too small to contain the beast within, while Hypertension uses keyboards drenched in reverb to form a symbiotic relationship with the warped backbone of the song, allowed to co-exist for over six minutes before succumbing to the surmounting pressure and gently dying down. Best of all is Monoscopic, a strangely beautiful foray into more accessible, danceable territory.
However, not all of the music here is of such excellent quality. Freefall is easily the weakest of the instrumental tracks, placing a little too much emphasis on random samples to sound as cohesive and well thought out as many of the songs it shares a tracklist with. It's moments like this across this album that run it into the ground, as the experimental flair leaks far too heavily into the fabric of the tightly produced beats, wreaking havoc with their structures and rendering many muddled sounding and directionless. This album certainly has its strengths and they're excellent ones, but one can't help but feel that this project was a squandering of ability. There's no denying the power behind the production here, but the earth-quaking bass can't save this record from its muddy sound quality, obscene overuse of noise and (for the most part) lacklustre guest features, all of which leave it high and dry.