The old saying goes:‘love hurts’. But more and more we find that life hurts more.
Standing in dynamic tension at the centre of these two abstract forces we rediscover Alex Smoke.
Eight years after he emerged as one of the most sophisticated, deft and musical producers operating in techno he’s returned from an agonized hiatus with his darkest, most complex and haunted work to date.
Adopting the spectral nom-de-guerre of Wraetlic (meaning “Wraith-like” in Anglo Saxon) Smoke has condensed all his pain of existence, the heartache of failed relationships with the hollow and mundane modern pressure to find ‘success’ in order to infiltrate our thoughts with music from another place.
The eponymously titled ‘Wraetlic’ is a descent. Obsessively processed percussion mingles with paranoid and dehumanized drones. It’s warped and claustrophobic; almost subterranean, fighting for air but refusing to break cover.And through the darkness we begin to hear him sing once more, a reminder of the melancholic majesty evident on classics such as ‘I Never Want To See You Again’ – yet here the listeners are plunged into an introspection that traverses frustration, sadness and anger to inhabit a carcass like structure where he is alone with the raw emotions that drive him.
He’s a man that thrives upon this melancholia, as he probes: “I’m fascinated by the sense of separation between ourselves and society,’ explains the usually furtive producer ‘and a sense that it doesn’t represent us … there’s also a more personal strand to do with my own relationships.”
Tracks such as ‘Refrain’ seethe with frustration at our inability as a society to improve collectively, despite elevating levels of education. It even ironically samples G.W. Bush’s words that called for peace as the US attached Iraq on March 20th, 2003:“I’m looking around and we have everything’ he sighs ‘just so much. But we’re lacking some basic things in our modern society which means we’re never going to be satisfied no matter how high our standard of living is. Money is the only thing our culture puts much value on. “
Artist Alex Smoke
Label Convex Industries
Release Date 04-Feb-2013
Release Date 10inch 17-Dec-2012
Cat No CONVEX005
7.Hymn To The Departed
9.Better The Devil
11.The Watchful Eye
12.Scunner [Jon Convex's Deconstructed Mix]
13.Better The Devil [DBridge's Advocate Mix]
14.Rats [SCB Edit]
And whilst he rages at the riches in society,‘Wraetlic’ is a record that was defined by absence.Aside from the three albums (Incommunicado, Paranolia and Lux) there was the relentless remixing for Steve Reich, Depeche Mode, Junior Boys, Funk D’Void and Jay Haze as well as a global audience to sate. On top of this he’d pushed on to score classical pieces for The Scottish Ensemble including a dark rendition of ‘Faust’.
But in delivering all this work Smoke paid a heavy physical price that would bizarrely inform this new work: “The last couple of years have been annoyingly marred by health issues’ he confesses ‘I couldn’t work nearly as much as I’d normally like. I had composed Faust but had then had a long time not being able to write much, so when I could work again I suddenly felt a new lease of life, a feeling which I hadn’t had since my early days. I think the time away from working probably did me good in hindsight.”
Now we are confronted with Alex Smoke’s most deviant, uncompromising and raw expression yet. Listen to ‘Dearth’ and hear him challenge the listener to confront who they truly are. Or travel through ‘Scunner’ and ‘Anothering’ to find a narrative about escape and the pent up realities of relationships.“Wraetlic’ is Smoke’s most fleshy, seething and livid work ever. Its life served on an uncomfortable bed that screams nocturnal pathways, yet has its eyes angled at the far off stars.
Listen hard; you may hear your own neurotic murmurs and twitches closer than you think.