It’s no rare thing to find surrealism and satire butting heads within a musical setting, but it is rather unusual for the resulting collision to be as fun – and as funky – as the latest album from Heatsick. Berlin-based Brit Stephen Warwick (the producer behind the alias) is used to making people dance – his multisensory “Extended Play” live shows revolve around him jamming on a Casio keyboard until he finds a groove, which he will then lock into for hours on end, putting the crowd into a feverish voodoo trance state – but with new LP Re-engineering he’s providing a mental work-out as well as a physical one. If the message Warwick is trying to impart here isn’t exactly crystal clear (something to do with the way we process the endless stream of information we are bombarded with in our day-to-day lives and the symbiotic relationship between humans and their environment), it’s certainly impossible to ignore: the opening title track (below) sets the tone, with artist Hanne Lippard blankly reeling off a list of seemingly unrelated 21st century buzz-phrases (“Second annual trend report… Private life… Use me now… Gay Google… Smart phone… Two point nought”) over woozy synths and an hypnotic industrial chug, highlighting the invisible threads that link everything and everyone in a deadpan voice that suggests total disconnection. It’s amusing, like some re-wired fembot parodying Madonna’s “Vogue”, but far from throwaway; a cybernetic tone poem soundtracking an imaginary art installation. Elsewhere, relatively straightforward house and techno numbers (or as “straightforward” as one would expect from a PAN release at any rate) such as “Clear Chanel” and “Emerge” are buffered by interludes poking fun at intrusive voiceover idents (“This is PAN…“) and – presumably – the general public’s bewildering obsession with crap karaoke cover versions (a snippet of Warwick warbling Oasis’ “Wonderwall”), whilst loose-limbed, light-hearted floor-fillers like “Speculative” and “Dial Again” rub shoulders with sax-adorned queasy-listening tropicalia (“Mimosa”) and bite-sized chunks of the kind of permanently-peaking disco bliss he cranks out live (“E-Scape”). Like My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts re-imagined – or indeed re-engineered – for the internet age, it’s an alien transmission that sounds like home, background noise that demands your complete attention. Talking to Tiny Mix Tapes recently, PAN boss Bill Kouligas said of running the label: “It’s not a competition, it’s not a race; it’s a personal interest I’m working with here.” An admirable sentiment, but with artists like Warwick producing game-changing records like this, Kouligas’ little labour of love is definitely onto a winner.
Re-engineering is out now on PAN; stream the album via Pitchfork Advance