Tescon Pol: Gai Lan | ★★★★ [Concrete Collage Records; Jan. 21]
Durham’s Tescon Pol—the electronic duo of Mic Finger and Ariel Johannessen—do not make what you might call “happy, fun-time” music.
In fact, there’s no other act in the Triangle that better embodies the meticulous musical brutalism of Einstürzende Neubauten or Front 242. Shadowy, alluring, earnest, and often punishing, this is hardly the sort of music you’d expect to light up central North Carolina on a Saturday night.
However, about 100 seconds into “Via”—the opening track on Tescon Pol’s first full-length, Gai Lan, out on French label Concrete Collage—queasy atonality gives way to a muscular synth groove that an electronic dance pioneer like Gary Numan would have killed for back in the day. The moment doesn’t linger, but it genuinely rocks. And like all the surprising nods to pop music on this tenebrous debut, it’s thrilling.
The haunting “greyforms’’ showcases Finger’s baritone. It wants for some modulation, but it’s undeniably effective among the swaying synth pads and computerized crackle, and could easily get the denizens a goth club slow-dancing together.
In keeping with the bloodthirsty traditions of industrial music, Tescon Pol can be unsettling. “Myriapoda” floats through a vast industrial sewer—with liquid bass tones collecting into a subterranean throb—only to emerge into “Cathodica,” a science-fiction landscape of ambulatory machinery and shrieking robotic birds.
“Waiting So Long” is slightly more playful, its sampled vocal stab and pinging percussion suggesting a disco song spun in a blender. And “Girl in the Adjoining Room, Yesterday” plays like the “fun” side of the IDM canon, before dissolving into a mechanized glitchscape.
But it’s “Gailan” that’s the biggest revelation here, invigorating and weirdly accessible. A mannered trip-hop beat pushes steadily through a surging river of noise that threatens to wash the listener away, but has the politesse to hold back until the very end.
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