Review Summary: I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.
Amidst the digital age, the ‘album’ as a format is becoming more-or-less obsolete in practicality. Several producers have adopted a singles-only approach, to some success (Calvin Harris seems to be one). On the flip side, we’ve seen acts like Bull of Heaven - intentionally or not - mock the album format with compositions of literally infinite lengths. The album has become a marketing vessel for some, and/or/yet/still a suitable artistic format for others. So, there is significance in Paula Temple’s decision to release an album proper. The DJ-producer has been active for approximately twenty years, and is a live performance mainstay in Germany. Alas, I can’t fully contextualize Temple’s music via her “post-death experience”-tier live sets (I’ve never been to a nightclub in Berlin), so I’m leaning on testimonials and YouTube clips, here. The point is, she probably didn’t need to make this in order to cement herself. Edge of Everything
serves as a meaningful culmination of her abilities, fluid and provisional. I’d also hazard a guess: it transcribes Temple’s visions in ways that her live sets probably can’t.
With this medium, there is less obligation to ‘read the room’ - we get more variation in themes and tempo. Moreover, any message is less likely to be lost in the shuffle. Even knowing nothing of Temple’s convictions, one can see patterns: song titles like “Futures Betrayed”, “Raging Earth”, and “Post-Scarcity Anarchism” are deliberately obtrusive. Songs like 146bpm “Open the Other Eye” give the illusion of being more glacial than they are mechanically, as the focus pans out to a more panoramic spread. It sounds like how a secret factory (in the Arctic maybe) might sound in a spy thriller. There is a sense of environment, but Iet’s not call it bio-mechanical or anything. If Edge of Everything
warranted a one-word summary, it would be anthropocentric
. This is an album where human influence isn’t simply prevalent - it’s an all-consuming core. Her label, Noise Manifesto, draws inspiration from the Donna Haraway essay A Cyborg Manifesto
. Maybe this album is her rendition of its passages: humanity dissembled and reassembled in a bid for a collective and personal self. Or maybe it’s just good, experimental industrial techno that’s got your boy thinking too hard.
That’s the power of music in this vein (akin to Blawan, Regis, Ansome, Emma Zunz): there’s some odd incentive to ask why we’re bobbing along, as though there’s some greater purpose extending beyond the fact that it’s probably just a good beat. Sometimes this beat is disrupted, though, and astral projection ensues. “Dimension Jumping” (holding at 134bpm) is one of the more rhythmic numbers, yet the tandem ascending synth lines disorient the flow. The bass in “Quantum Unfolding” almost seems random, like expressive outbursts coaxed by the sharper synths and backbeat hi-hats. Songs that lack established beats, like “Nicole” and opener “Berlin”, allow some time to meditate, albeit with some tension. I’d argue this music belongs in the intersection of HANL-Sweet Trip-Grouper fandom, with the mammoth intensity in its depressive atmosphere, synthetic backdrops, and occasional delicate touch.
There’s been a resurgence of powerful industrial techno in the past five or so years, and it’s unlikely that Temple’s 2013 return (she had been awol for a while prior) was coincidental. Edge of Everything
is brimming with a sense of purpose, and I’d avoid simply calling it “one of 2019’s best techno releases”. I mean, it probably will be, but that’s a throwaway statement. It’s more appropriate to commend Temple’s astute ambitions, here. They seem to be in-line with the motivations behind anarcho-punk, or ‘Wobbly’ folk protests, or early industrial. It just feels a bit more prototypical in its message, and more open to interpretation. Techno, in its physical manifestations (the clubs, mainly) has long been political in an escapist way. More recently, Berlin’s club scene in particular has grown more daring in self-perseveration. Temple’s brand of music could serve as a more globally-oriented form of protest. Or, again, maybe it’s just good, experimental industrial techno.