Just what is it with Rephlex and their ‘mystery’ artists? Is it a cunning marketing move to get fanboys speculating and salivating at the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it might be Richard D James at the controls? Or is it mere coincidence that they unearth a slew of apparently reclusive soundalikes destined for their true spiritual home and the inescapable, inevitable comparisons that releasing on this label will bring?
Apparently IDM forums have been awash with discussion of the origins of Steinvord for a couple of years already, despite this being a debut release. The story has it that he (she? they?) became an almost overnight sensation among those communities after posting a handful of tracks on myspace. I’m not sure why, but exposing a new project via the medium deemed ‘currently least fashionable’ seems like such an inherently ‘Rephlex’ thing to do. Given the sheer weight of numbers prepared to post a handful of homemade electronica tunes online these days, I’m suspicious of how any such person rockets from total obscurity to talk of the town without any apparent intervention. Dark forces at work? Or perhaps these tracks really do bear the mark of genius?
Sadly, the more I pondered this particular ‘whodunnit’, the less I found myself caring. As a self-confessed Rephlex spotter since the labels early days, there may have been a time when I’d happily obsess for hours (was that an Aphex style detuned pad I heard there? Yes, but aren’t those drill sounds also rather reminiscent of Squarepusher’s “Ultravisitor”?). No more. I can understand why there is such a clamour hailing this as some sort of collaborative effort of braindance masterminds but let’s face it – where some people lead, others follow. Sure there are elements of this record that call to mind those earlier groundbreaking and distinctive works but these techniques are no longer cutting edge and can be mimicked. If Rephlex aren’t letting on, and the mysterious Steinvord isn’t going to ‘fess up, it will probably never be settled. So what? Music is music regardless, so deal with it. Anyway, some of the drum programming definitely sounds like Macc and/or Dgohn…. you heard it here first kids.
If you’ve read this far you probably already have a reasonable idea of what the record actually sounds like (but hey – that’s a secondary consideration to who it sounds like, right?); five expertly crafted post drill ‘n’ bass numbers laced sparingly with tearing 303 and crystalline ambience, plus the occasional ‘cat in a mangler’ moment of breakcore apocalypse. Opener ‘Backyard’ is probably the pick of the bunch, a hefty dose of broken acid funk, but the remainder, whilst highly polished, lacks a little colour. Not the finest moment in Rephlex’s extensive catalogue, but certainly not sub-par either. Could it be James and/or Jenkinson? Maybe. Just remember that ultimately it’s the music that matters most, hype or no hype.