blir - raster edits cd
Finally available again. It wasn’t long after we opened our shop way back in 1998 that the first inconspicuous, hand-stamped 12” from .snd appeared as if by magic in one of our shipments. With only a telephone number discreetly inked on the back of the sleeve there was really nothing to suggest that what we had in our hands was the most precise, sparse and groundbreaking variants of techno minimalism we’d come across or would ever come across again in years to come. As time went by parts of the puzzle started to fill in - snd (was it a project name? a label name? a title?) was the work of Mark Fell and Mat Steel from Sheffield, two characters with a seemingly incongruous interest in the academic/arts end of the musical spectrum and the dark recesses of warehouse party culture at one and the same time, spurred on by their local scene and the presence of compatriots like Rob Brown and Sean Booth from Autechre. Over the next couple of years two more twelves appeared and then a 7” on CCO before Mille Plateaux, in an effort to foist its own generic categorisation on the world, hosted snd as part of its fabled clicks and cuts compendiums and series of album releases. In the midst of all of this, Mark and Mat (together with Premium Leisure cohorts Jeremy Porter and Robert Baker) worked on loop-based material under the loose moniker “Blir”. Together with some synth patches from fellow minimalist Frank Bretschneider, these reduced grooves spawned two 12”s that have been more or less impossible to track down ever since. And so, fresh from touring with Autechre, mat and mark return with this hugely anticipated cd for Raster Noton, collecting tracks from those lost EP’s and some new material, 19 tracks in total that illustrate in crisp, brilliantly sharp strokes just how their deconstructed bass, tone and click funk works when reduced to its barest parts. Some of it sounds like classic Raster reduction, some of it sounds like Techno blueprints that the likes of Sleeparchive have attracted so much attention for recently. As I’m listening to this now there's a faint echo of excitement in the back of my mind that maybe, if I’m extremely lucky, this release will be a precursor to the return of snd proper. Amen to that.