Flashbulb: Flexing Habitual

Funckarma: Bion Glent

Undoubtedly, had I been exposed blindly to The Flashbulb's 2005 release Réunion and the new Flexing Habitual, I would have guessed the latter to be the earlier of the two releases. Most artists gradually discard their influences from one album to the next as they develop their unique personae but Flexing Habitual finds Benn Jordan moving in the opposite direction. Instead of the disc further establishing his own voice, the release finds Aphex Twin and Squarepusher infiltrating Jordan's ten-song collection, with manic drill'n'bass beats and glistening keyboard melodies dominating the proceedings. Jordan's clearly got something up his sleeve as even the track titles in my player form the acrostic ‘IDMDIESNOW'—not to mention the fact that the release is a mere 31 minutes long.

The template's familiar, its blanks having been roundly filled in already: acidy beats and jittery bass lines writhe spasmodically at light speed while graceful melodies elegantly unfurl overhead. The fourth track shifts gears by introducing a sing-song melody, vocodered singing, and a jaunty rhythm that seems to have some vague hint of Klezmer oozing out of it while “Amen Iraq” is, as its title indicates, a fusion of ferocious beatsmithing with Middle Eastern-flavour. Listeners still drooling over Richard D. James Album and “Come on My Selector” might be thrilled but, while there's no denying Jordan 's expertly mastered the style (doubters need only check out the jawdropper “Lucid Bass III”), it still sounds like a step backwards.

Incredibly, the ridiculously prolific Funcken brothers are back with another collection (they issued full-lengths under the Automotive and Quench names only months ago), and lo and behold it comes fully-loaded at seventy-two minutes and fifteen tracks. (Could next month possibly bring a double-disc set by Shadowhuntaz aka Funckarma + Non Genetic?). Perhaps most surprisingly, the duo maintains a pretty high standard despite the outlandish production rate. Having said that, Funckarma devotees won't confront any radical alteration in the group's sound, as the focus remains slippery, sputtering electronica that flirts with hip-hop, IDM, and funk. There's fulminating beat crunch (“Bion Glent”), oozing digi-funk (“Flame Tree”), snappy squelch and beat stutter (“Blake”), and, maybe best of all, the slamming hip-hop heaviosity of “Kaon.” Perhaps, though, the Funckens might have exercised a bit more quality control by bringing the album down to a leaner fifty minutes, and by excising weaker material (like “Laed” whose hiccupping bits and seizure-gripped beats slither and flail to little effect).

December 2006