FZV: Precedent
Ai Records

Quickly now. Name the artist known for superb Warp-styled IDM, industrial machine beats, and track titles like “Iso_r2,” “ Amlgm2,” and “Col Modulus.” Of course, the answer's obviously…FZV? Even a cursory listen confirms that Precedent, the first full-length from FZV (Richard Herbert) on the superb Ai Records label, aligns itself with the “Artificial Intelligence” era of drum machines and analog synths popularized by Aphex Twin, Bola, and Autechre.

Having noted for the record its derivativeness, the issue of quality can be broached and, on that count, there should be little debate as Precedent is often very good. The qualifier, however, is significant as its impact is diminished by some tracks (“Cold” and “Sells, Borrows”) which seem more like sketches than fully-developed compositions. The album apparently collects early FZV works produced for Ai (including remastered compilation tracks) into an hour-long set of fourteen tracks. While they're all fine, at least a half dozen are great, including the opener “Metaphrastic.” It's an aggressive, declamatory intro that establishes a dark mood immediately with repetitive patterns of booming beats and garbled voices. But contrast immediately follows with “Iso_r2,” a meditative oasis of liquid pools and tiny organisms that aurally dot its placid surface. Herbert demonstrates a capacity for surprise on “Amlgm2” which begins with trademark Autechre bass throbs and clanging beats but is then reconfigured by a subtle tech-house hi-hat pattern. The most majestic composition is “F2V” where Herbert conjoins towering symphonic synth patterns to a massive beat. Other tracks exploit the full inventory of genre sounds: fuzzy tones, crackling patterns, bass smears, and scraping noises.

These are, then, halcyon days for fans of Autechre-influenced IDM, given the coincidental release of Precedent and Traject's equally fine Strengir Hrynja on Spezialmaterial. They're comparable releases, although Traject's shorter running time renders it more powerful as, unlike Precedent, it allows no chance for tension to dissipate. Like another equally fine Ai Records release, Claro Intelecto's Neurofibro, Precedent would sound more cohesive had Herbert edited it down to, say, fifty minutes and eleven tracks rather than the sixty-five and fourteen that it presently is. But such a caveat amounts to a minor quibble as it does little to argue against the generally high quality of the recording and the strong impact it makes.

May 2004