A few weeks ago, I wrote about a new breed of bass music structured according to a principle I called the “anti-drop”: A refusal of gratification, an inversion of mainstream EDM’s sugar-rush dynamics and everything-louder-than-everything-else proportions. To that (somewhat fanciful) classification we might add the new release from London’s Mordant Music, “Post-MorteM”/”ModeM.”
As the label’s proprietor, Baron Mordant, wrote me in an e-mail, “Not sure how you’d qualify the drop in ‘Post-MorteM’ but I reckon it’s more of an intervention.”
Active for a decade now, Mordant Music (Ian Hicks) and his eponymous label model themselves as a kind of spore residing deep in electronic music’s cracks and crevices. Mordant’s releases plumb the nether regions of cultural memory via broken-down dub, corroded drones and unsettling visuals cribbed from the archives of the British Film Institute — think Boards of Canada on really bad acid.
The label’s catalog includes releases from like-minded types like Shackleton, Ekoplekz and Vindicatrix, but the project isn’t limited to recorded music. A 2010 installation called “Nesst” consisted of a montage of old public information films projected from inside a replica of a WWII “pillbox” bunker; set to uneasy sub rumble and melancholic synthesizer melodies, it was a haunting meditation on empire and decline.
The video for “Post-MorteM” takes a similar tack, diving into blood-red, shark-infested waters to the accompaniment of creepy electronic dub somewhere between Porter Ricks and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. On laptop speakers, it might sound like so much rattle and ho-hum, but listen on proper speakers or headphones with a decent low end, and a whole new world opens up, as “an infrasound-tinged intervention provides a non-dropsy intermission bass binge,” as Baron Mordant describes it. (Presumably he’s not talking about the disease known as dropsy, but that would work too, given how swollen and bruised the music is.)
With all this talk of interventions, does that mean we should call this new genre 12-step? A kind of cold turkey for a generation addicted to the quick fix? There’s not much stepping on these two tracks, of course — both are about as far away from “dance music” as you can get without lopping off your legs. But there is a hefty dose of the dope-sick here, and even more so on “ModeM,” a queasy spray of drones and coded static that wobbles like a solid-state guitar amp that’s been given a swift kick.
The single is out as a vinyl and digital release on June 8; you can pre-order here, and check the video and soundclips below.