snd, atavism


My review for the Beeb:


Atavism is intense, utterly stripped-down and as persistent as an angry hornet. There’s nothing superfluous at all. Although the music may initially appear forbidding, SND achieve a striking degree of variety from a carefully reduced set of elements.

SND’s music has always been as consistently minimal as the most severe conceptual art. Thoughts of Donald Judd or Dan Flavin, however, don’t usually centre on their art’s funkiness, whereas SND’s rhythms trace their routes back to the dance floor.

As with the group’s name, from which all vowels have been removed, a key characteristic of their music is a striking absence: there’s no bass at all. All  sonic activity occurs in the middle and upper registers. When combined with the jaunty rhythms of UK Garage as on their first three albums, their music appears to be the haunted reverse of Dubstep’s bass-heavy progress.

With Atavism, SND draw their inspiration from a point further back in time, indicated by the titular reference to the ancient or ancestral. On the evidence of Atavism’s reduced sonic palette, this relates to the electro-inspired bleep tracks released by the likes of Unique 3 and LFO in the group’s Sheffield hometown at the turn of the ‘90s.

With the absence of bass and any extraneous elements, the sound becomes meditative, strangely so for something so exacting and unforgiving. Atavism is SND’s fourth album, their first in five years and their debut for Raster Noton. As such, it’s the point at which two arcs intersect: releases on Raster Noton have gradually become less ascetic and more listener/dance floor-friendly while, with Atavism, SND appear to have jettisoned the UK Garage-derived syncopation that made their music so immediately palatable.

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