Portuguese drum’n’bass act VortexSoundTech has apparently been around for a number of years, but “Fiery Silence”, released on Thisco Records, is their debut full-length album. And I’ll just cut right to the point – their style is unique, accentuating hard, technoid d’n’b with a distinctively old school industrial expression.
Throughout the entire album, the listener is presented with introverse, rich, textured industrial soundscapes that mutate and narrow into upbeat electro melodies – only to be blown out into heavy, suppressing basslines, accompanied by atmospheric, minimalistic orchestral pieces that further evolve into dark, psychadelic, multilayered and slightly off-kilter synthlines.
A lot of the more orchestral and acoustic melodies seem particularly inspired by Asian and, to some extent, Middle-Eastern folk music, instead of ragga and hip-hop. This is something often seen in darker, cyberpunk-inspired industrial and psytrance, but less so in drum’n’ bass. The bass- and synthlines are both very dark and ravey, as is generally heard in heavier techstep and darkstep music. The massive synthlines and bass coupled with the driving rhythms remind me of acts such as Ed Rush/Optical, SPL or T.Z.A, but then it suddenly changes into to sounding like a strange union between Simon Bassline Smith and Coil or even Psychic TV.
That VortexSoundTech’s influences are all over the map is also evidenced in the clever cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” called “Between Spaces”. They play on contradictory expressive methods, with ambient, almost ritual industrial with spoken/shouted heavily processed vocals put in stark contrast to the aggressive, cut up and progressively evolving breakbeats. It’s interesting to note that even though the rhythms are generally fast and aggressive with a fair use of distortion throughout, many of the tracks are actually quite mellow in their overall expression. Instead, they convey emotions such as desperation, desolation, determination or even confusion. Also worth noting, the vocals are especially reminiscent of mid-era Skinny Puppy (1989 – 1994) and early Laibach on the songs like “Reload” and “Under Circumcision”. I can honestly say that this is the first time that I’ve ever heard a band build upon a foundation of hard, uncompromising drum’n’bass by incorporating heavy, oldschool industrial and militant, hard electro/EBM influences with IDM and even psy-trance sensibilities in such a unique and overall consistent way. Sure, Industrial and EBM acts have used elements of drum’n’bass in their music to a lesser or greater extent before (for example Cubanate, Godflesh and even Covenant), but VortexSoundTech are doing it the other way around – being a proper drum’n’bass band that heavily relies on the aforementioned influences in their music.
There’s only a few points of criticism I can put my finger on. One is that the samples they use sometimes seem a bit redundant, and take from the intensity of the music rather than add to it. Another thing is the vocals/lyrics could be better written, and more concise and original. But that’s really a minor point. Overall, the production is excellent, the compositions involving and the delivery is dead on. This needs to played loudly, and preferably for a packed dancefloor.
If you’re into techstep, darkstep and neurofunk as well oldschool industrial music, you absolutely must check this album out. A lot of artists could learn a thing or two from these guys.
— Jonas Mansoor