What L.I.E.S have brought to the world of dance music is the punk approach that was desperately needed to refresh the slick, impersonal productions of the first decade of this century. Ron Morelli’s label brought a raw edge to personal music, made by real people that evaded standardised forms of gentrification. When faced with a L.I.E.S release the informed listener will intuitively know what to expect, and that is unique music that tends to speak to some instinctive guttural part of your very being. There’s a visceral component to the music that’s on every L.I.E.S release and impossible as it might be to put into words, it’s always the result of leaving that rough grain around the edges, that imperfect glossy veneer abraded by the harsh experience of existence. It’s a sound, and an approach that’s been tailor made for an artist like Adam Mitchell.
Mitchell, better known as Adam X, but appearing on the label for the second time as his ADMX-71 moniker, is L.I.E.S incarnate. His entire biography is what L.I.E.S set out to do in music. His days tagging New York’s subway trains as VEN was punk; his harsh life experiences growing up in New York in the eighties was raw; and his career as one of the key personalities in New York’s dance history is certainly one where L.I.E.S can find some common ground today. So when the two come together what we have is an exaggerated execution of those aspects and an album called Coherent Abstractions.
In the LP we immediately encounter something from Mitchell’s formative years growing up too close to the wrong side of the tracks, too close to not be affected by the droning aspects of the mechanism. Opener, Virtual Continuum churns at the beat like a steel wheel trying to find some purchase on a track, while heavy layers of foggy textures expound on the uncomfortable midrange of the frequency spectrum. It’s evocative of some organic machine’s protracted birth into existence, a train embarking on a journey packed with commuters swaying from the handrails. Rickety percussion and subliminally motivated drones form waves of sonic terrain that keeps falling away under your feet as you pass over them. For the most part, Coherent Abstractions manifests around a rigid thematic loop with diverse pieces joining in, and evacuating the fray, like a collage that’s continuously adapting to some obsessive-compulsive personality. The erratic arrangements of what I assume to be improvised moments are so much more noticeable alongside the immovable motifs on which they pounce. At times, like Conjecture State, some of the elements are even out of sync with the repetitive beat/bass-line, but as disruptive as it might sound on paper, especially with that very heavy reverberating kick, a track like that takes on a new meditative quality as you go further along its time line. As the pieces pile on to that central percussive theme, something of the hyper attentive behaviour of the music transfixes the listener to a point of subconscious reverie. There’s an eerie moment of realisation that you’ve drifted from this moment by the time you get to Janina’s vocals on Bound & Broken. As the vocalist says/sings “through me you’ve reached a new point of consciousness” it’s uncanny how accurate that sentiment actually is and also quite surprising at how you could’ve reached that moment, considering what has actually transpired through the speakers. Bound and Broken awakens you to a sonic world that’s desolate and abrasive, as you’re suddenly confronted with the harsh rasping tones of ADMX-71’s production line aesthetic. It’s a rude awakening, and with Techno’s resolve in future, Mitchell’s future seems bleak at first.
It appears that ADMX-71’s sound is one that should be synonymous to the industrial grind of IDM, but instead it creates an enduring ambient effect where the harsh industrialised sounds are often juxtaposed with an upbeat melodic element or a repetitive motif in which dense layers of immersive qualities are created even at it’s most extreme outline, like on Nearing Obliteration. More significantly there always seems to be some buoyant optimism amongst the sullen conjecture of the tones, and when Bound and Broken disappears into My Theme Song with an energetic kick-snare-percussion, the music takes on a Detroitian sanguinity, flipping the whole feel of the album thus far on its head and passing the listener over to a new serene phase of the album. Through the last three tracks the droning sensation of the album adopts a different temperament as if the mood of the whole album lifts to some enlightened state. It’s an obvious shift in mood, but not one that changes the entire course of the album, and rather gives emphasis to a new aspect to ADMX-71, an aspect that was there all along and draws the album to a close in a very conclusive statement. It’s only at this ultimate moment, where the last resonances of the snare from MGM 41-85 fall into oblivion that the album can be appreciated in its entirety and you realise that the sanguine element was always there in amongst the harsher elements, Mitchell not favouring any singular mood on the album.
Coherent Abstractions is quite substantial in this regard. It’s very difficult to admire one song over the other, because they only make sense in the context of each other. Like everything with L.I.E.S there’s this visceral appeal to the music, something that appears out of the beatific moments of improvisation, and contrasts the harsh impenetrable exterior of the Techno, Noise and Drone’s sound palette. Remembering now how I flicked through the album on the first listen, it’s almost impossible to perceive it was in fact the same album. Coherent Abstractions is an industrial ambient album in some regards and requires the concerted effort, I’ve realised must have gone into creating those dense sonic layers of music for the listener. It’s not apparent what role Morelli or L.I.E.S would’ve played in this regard, but what’s quite clear is that Coherent Abstractions is all it could be thanks to the label’s attitude, an attitude that runs through Adam Mitchells personality and much of the reason this brilliantly immersive album exists.