John Heckle – Wet Noises

Wet Noises arrives in the room about as delicately as an elephant dressed in tutu with a BPM hovering close to the speed of a jack hammer. It’s a lively percussive onslaught that focuses as much on the toms as the kick while an acid riff moves like a schizophrenic honey badger in a locked cage. In its way, it has some affinity with the hard-hitting, over-distorting, big room Techno that is still all the rage in the industrial spaces of Berlin, with formidable beats dusted with a sizeable amount of distortion and reverb, but it never quite gets there successfully. True to John Heckle’s nature, the UK producer makes it his own with the cluttered mix of the track bringing a rough edge to the track like much of Heckle’s work. The distorting toms sound rather broken and everything is squashed into the centre of the mix. It sounds more like a claustrophobic garden shed than a vast warehouse space and it’s something that eventually exhausts the listener alongside the speed of the track. It is dotted with the same inventive personality that was first brought to every ones attention via Mathematics, but it comes across as though the UK producer is making light of the Berlin-inspired Techno trend rather than an invested interpretation of it. It’s a comedy track of sorts for me, especially with that over-emphasised noise and hyperbolic tempo, and not really something I’d be likely to return to as a listener. But Wet Noises is more than just the title track with Frozen Planet and Alpha Deux filling out the EP and showcasing some of the artist’s appealing nature from the past, channelling it into something a little less ironic.

Alpha Deux manages to warp the idea of form, going from the harsh ambience of a horror soundtrack into beat-driven Detroit tech arrangement. It still adorns the trend-focussed commentary of the opener, but Heckle appears to make more of concerted effort in this section, true to his uncompromising idiom. The claustrophobic nature of the title track is negated through the airy production, the high-end sparkle of the hats filling out the arrangement more effectively without distracting from the dripping synthesisers that mark the central theme of the track. It abruptly ends, going in reverse, with the closing seconds of the Alpha Deux returning to those brooding tones that opened it up, but not before a sizeable portion of silence has passed. A sense of humour can again be sensed in the way it concludes, and as a result it is Frozen Planet that steals the show for me. The off-beat scuffle of the drums and the slow moving legato synths are the most rewarding thing on the EP, forging invention into successful execution while notably avoiding the irony of the preceding tracks. It captures something of Heckle’s creative appeal from previous EPs like 4th Dimension, without seemingly conforming to some obscured idea of a trend.

It’s a shame that for the most part Heckle appears to be trying to encapsulate this idea of that German Techno sound, complete with distorting kicks and oppressive atmosphere, even if it might appear for the sake of social commentary. In the way Heckle twists the idea of that big room Techno sound on Wet Noises, he seems to be making fun of the idea of those thousands of English drug-tourists that queue up to the doors of Berghain every weekend for the sake of what’s “cool” right now, but is it really necessary? It’s certainly something that’s plagued many artists of late and I don’t mind joining in the chorus of voices that believe it’s worn out its welcome, but I’m not sure if Heckle commenting on it through Wet Noises, is worth the effort he puts into it.