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Swarm Intelligence - Ultraware (Voitax 018)

Review

Swarm Intelligence - Ultraware (Voitax 018)

Berlin based label Voitax clearly has big plans for the turn of the decade, which will see it hitting the 20 release landmark with two forthcoming EPs scheduled for January 2020: a beautifully convoluted and dancefloor ready EP by Swarm Intelligence, as well as a very promising compilation in collaboration with iconic Berlin-Singaporean label Midnight Shift.  

Active since 2013, Voitax has been a rather quiet but essential player in the development and convergence of a blend of genres - from techno and electro to EBM and industrial - around a dark and dronic core, championed by an A-class roster featuring names like Umwelt, I Hate Models and Veronika Maximova amongst others. We will have the occasion to talk about the compilation and the label in more detail, but this round is going to be dedicated to the latest effort by Swarm Intelligence, an artist that with his three releases has become a pillar for the label’s distinctive take on hard-hitting, dark and left-field sound.

The technological rebel, who borrows his artist name from Robotic and Artificial Intelligence lexicon, manages to innovate his sound while remaining aligned with the commissioning label’s stylistic features. At the same time, Swarm Intelligence draws into a tradition of classic club genres. “Ultraware” starts from canonic structures of 90s electro, dark, bass heavy techno and D&B, only to then deconstruct them in critical moments, reinterpreting their sound through granular synthesis and spectral analysis. The result is a fresh and personal take on some genres that have been heavily revived in the last years, which distinguishes itself for a gritty but detailed sound and ear-catching but never “too-much’ de-construction choices. Ultraware traces an interesting path connecting different genres, making it at the same time a valuable tool for daring DJs as well as a peak moment for more conceptual works, especially with the B side. 


“Rise of the Machines”  opens the EP and the track name is indicative of the tradition Swarm Intelligence draws from - the cyborg and machine fetischising electro productions of the early 90s. And indeed, this is a pure electro monster: dark, cinematic and fat. The bassline, which although heavy doesn’t cover the pungent and sharp snares, rolls relentless for the whole four minutes, leaving space for only some 20 seconds of simulated gritty scratching before kicking in again. A tool which will surely enter some bags of electro-heads. 

Up next is “Holographic” with a stark change in rhythmic and construction pattern but the same energy. The hybrid techno track might not be the easiest to fit into a set 4/4 set, with an asymmetric kick-drum pattern that gives it a rather infernal sound. The first minute and a half feels like getting hit hard in the face, only to leave space to a long ghostly breakdown, like a free fall before getting hit over and over again. In the closing 30 seconds, a confused pad takes over and drives you to the end, quite literally. Pretty sure some of you will need a break after this.


Flip the record to the B side and what you’ll find is something different: “Cybernetic” and  “our wounds are opposite” gift the listener with the more original reinterpretation of the traditions they find their roots into. The B1 is a masterfully crafted cut of jungle memories: the rhythmic pattern is what remains of this tradition, yet not untouched either, with heavy sound design giving it a raw touch. Add some Eerie melodies and granular, gritty noises and what you get is a very original piece, which still maintains all the kinetic energy of the A side, if not more. Favourite. 

Finally down to “Our Wounds Are Opposite”, a futuristic bass heavy cut which brings us in a metallurgic factory of the future. Starting off with a slightly off-tempo potent kick drum, things rapidly devolve in a sparkly synthy break down, with meticulously designed lasers cutting through the air leaving bits of plasma behind. Chaotic, immersive and pleasantly disjointed at times. I know I already picked a favourite, but you will allow me two for this time, won’t you? 

All in all, with “Ultraware” Swarm Intelligence confirms his dexterity in switching among high pitched genres and making them his own, while showcasing a rather mature and coherent style which provides another beautiful representation of the sonic world of Voitax. 


Swarm Intelligence - Ultraware
Out now on VOITAX.