RR: Five years after his last album release Luke Slater returns to Ostgut Ton with a new Planetary Assault Systems longplayer, titled Arc Angel.
After 22 light-years Luke Slater’s Planetary Assault Systems keeps exploring space and time with different musical means. Staying true to the project’s initial mission statement, Slater comments on the new yet familiar musical direction: “For me music has to go forward. I’d feel I was cheating by sticking to tried and tested formulas. There’s a valid use for these, but this album has its own agenda.” With Arc Angel, Planetary Assault Systems departs to new musical frontiers by focussing on melody, but staying rooted in the purist values of Techno that Slater shaped over his decades- and generations-spanning career.
While the album title may sound like a reference to spiritual matters, it hints to rather secular affairs – piety is a relict of the past after all. Arc Angel is a postmodernist, non-comfortist Techno album first and foremost, catering as much for club contexts as for accessibility in new melodic terms. Long-standing Slater followers will seamlessly connect to Arc Angel, whereas the LP opens space to new listeners at the same time. In the tradition of Slater’s previous albums with Ostgut Ton – The Messenger (2011) and Temporary Suspension (2009) – its musical motifs radiate around polymorphic and extraterrestrial sounds, using contemporary instrumental language, but putting stronger emphasis on compatible musical phrases. “With this album it was very much a case of limitation and focus around the idea of alternative melody,” Slater says.
“I love music that takes you somewhere new. All music for this album had to pass that test. At the same time I wanted to re-root the foundations of what I see as Techno into that and focus on melody, rather than a track just being a beat. I moved the work of the track from the beat to the upper frequencies making them more important. I think we’ve learnt how to do the big straight beats now and I like trying to push things further without becoming abstract for the sake of it.“
Although Arc Angel started as a blank page, Slater continues his sonic explorations as heard on the recent Mote-Evolver-released 12“es – No Exit EP (2013), Future Modular (2014) and The Eyes Themselves (2015).
“Arc Angel is the following album from that series of singles – there’s regression and progression going on at the same time.” And while there are nods to the past, Arc Angel aims for the future. There’s shimmering sounds reminiscent of light beams being fired (“Tri Fn Trp”), pulsing signals in deep space (“Angel Of The East”, “Sonar Falls”, “Groucho”) and rather harsh aesthetics (“The Last Scene”). Its melodic range includes hypnotic arrangements (“Merry Go Round”, “Blue Monk”), distorted bells (“Revolution One”), rainbow noise and spatial effects – for the most part meshing with heavy kick drums (“Message From The Drone Sector”, “The Rider”), sometimes using reduced beat patterns (“Max”), at times turning to repetitious loops, clarion analogue synth pads and alienated vocal bits (“Interlude 1 to 6”).
Despite its musical richness, all gear had to fit onto a small table. “I love software, hardware, technology but because we have almost endless choice of sound creating devices it now drove me to using very limited and focused equipment by choice to express each track. Actually taking influences from the way an original Blues guy might have used an old guitar and a stomp box, yet still make very organic and spiritual music. He has the guitar, the box and voice – I have the 909 and 808, which have always been the main drivers of Planetary Assault Systems.“ The writing part itself was disconnected from the production and mixing period in Slater’s studio @ Spacestation Ø, UK, allowing for a more reduced yet flexible set-up and revisiting individual parts of the album at a later point without major changes.
While the album’s 20 tracks in about 96 minutes will be available digitally as individual pieces, Arc Angel will also be available as a single, continuous mix and a mixed three LP and two CD version, all taking the album’s intended way of perception and Slater’s ethos as a DJ into account: take a ride through one evolving movement.
In other news: Luke Slater debuts as The 7th Plain on A-TON with the first album from the Chronicles series being released on 5 August, accompanied by a 7th Plain set at Berghain’s Elektroakustischer Salon. Most recently Slater partnered with David Sumner (aka Function) and Steve Bicknell as LSD – their joint DJ / live hybrid set just premiered at Berghain for Planetary Funk 22 Light Years.