MOD-COMM 81 – Join Us
Artist: MOD-COMM 81
Album: Join Us
Type: Full-length album (LP)
Release date: 7 November 2016
- Black cassette, edition 50 (Tekres, 2016)
- Digital download (Tekres, 2016)
If ghost tech is “dance music for introverts” (per Halo Acid), then Join Us is the extrovert who adopted all the other albums, forces them go out outside, and pushes them next to cute girls at the bar so they’re forced to make small talk. It comes from the project MOD-COMM 81, which is run by a pseudonymous artist from the UK. MOD-COMM 81 got their start with a series of hardvapour mixes in 2016, which notably included #RAM-ceiling on HVRF. Join Us is MOD-COMM 81’s fourth overall album and the fourth overall release by the Tekres label, a short-lived1 yet influential cyberpunk label that exclusively released ghost tech music.
Join Us is an eight-track release of moderately uptempo (for ghost tech) cyberpunk electronica with nods to Detroit techno and hardvapour. Join Us makes subtle references to drug culture – a common theme in 2016 hardvapour – especially on the title track, which outright samples a woman and a man discussing being high. The album artwork has an obvious sexual theme, but one could also imagine dropping tabs or licking blotter paper. These references are far less overt than straight hardvapour though; Join Us might be the token extrovert of ghost tech, but it still eschews hardvapour’s try-anything-thrice milieu. There’s one small bit that acknowledges MOD-COMM 81’s home country: final track “Rickmansworth” is a shout-out to the eponymous town in Hertfordshire, England.
Whereas other ghost tech releases (especially on primary labels Tekres and Pyramids) consist of spacious, polyrhythmic beats, Join Us is comparatively busy. Opening track “The Agitator”2 incorporates tribal percussion with glitch-hop effects that could be mistaken from turntablism (especially at the ~(3:30) mark). In contrast to the melodic aspects of ambient-techno-influenced ghost tech as found on the split between Subaeris and Kagami Smile, Join Us occasionally features distortion (e.g. “Asteroid”). It’s not too different from what one would expect from a mid-90s mix from the Underground Resistance collective – a highly influential Detroit techno group rooted in social commentary and anti-commercialism. These bits give Join Us a confrontational edge over the other Tekres albums.
The production is boomy, which is generally to the album’s strength. At no point does Join Us suffer from unintentional distortion due to loudness. The bass hits on the title track are paunchy, and the twinkling bits on “Simulate” are aptly mixed so as to not upstage the percussion. “Melody 81” gallops along with simulated hand-claps that – intentional or not – sound just the slightest bit off-tempo with the melody, giving the track a live feel. The one unavoidable criticism is perhaps due to a fault in the album’s sequencing: the quiet, understated “Metrosong” is immediately followed by the boisterous beginning to “Rickmansworth”; the end to Join Us would likely be more effective if these tracks were switched, or if the volume on “Metrosong” were brought up one or two notches so that “Rickmansworth” isn’t so jarring.
Join Us is recommended for new listeners to ghost tech who are coming from a house bent or for those who aren’t yet into the subgenre’s reticence. Those who are already fans of Tekres will find it a strong addition to their library.
1. The Agitator – (5:29)
2. Asteroid – (4:48)
3. Melody 81 – (3:32)
4. Join Us – (6:58)
5. Simulate (faet. Dog & Fox) – (4:43)
6. Speckled Metal – (5:15)
7. Metrosong – (6:46)
8. Rickmansworth – (3:52)
1Tekres only released eight albums between July 2016 and May 2017, ending with an unannounced extended hiatus of label owner Halo Acid, which also saw the moving of HKE’s final Sequence 777 release (originally scheduled for November 2017) to Asura Revolver. The January 2018 release of Lines of Fracture by Halo Acid might hint at a return of Tekres, if at least more Halo Acid.