Burn Slow by Chris Liebing

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Chris Liebing | Burn Slow
Mute (LP/CD/DL)

In his first studio album in over a decade Burn Slow (due 9/7) by DJ/producer Chris Liebing will be a nice surprise for many post-club folk as well as a crossover audience who likes their techno a little on the more experimental side. He’s invited several special guests as well, featured on various tracks scattered intermittently throughout, including the delightfully moody Polished Chrome (The Friend Pt. 1) (featuring Gary Numan):

But here we begin with the opener, his collaboration with Cold Cave, So Then… The initial vibe are of bleary synth and squeezed toms in the distance, like a funerary march. It’s a nice heady slow starter that gradually unfolds with an announcer talking about the purpose of music, meditation and the immediate moment (+ dancing). It’s really more an abstract overture on time and place, setting the scene.  That is until Zero One brings the groovy beats, though they are set off by strange warping effects and other assorted layers of dynamic electronics. This is atypical as a straight ahead DJ mix, and pleasing as the instrumental in-between.

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Liebing is branching out with his sound, building atmosphere from the underbelly of a richly decorated techno past. Though what rises here and there are more intermediate reflections than full-on house bumpers. And All Went Dark (featuring Polly Scattergood) is one example such interesting example where her voiceover is reveals itself as a radio play spoken word piece, with meandering thumping bpms. Her sultry voice recalls dust, the ocean, dark shadows, the stars and other dreamy dalliances. All the while an arcade game styled bleeping synth lights and dims in sync.

The album’s first single, Novembergrey, is up next. Here a reticent beat looms not unlike some of the latter day work of labelmate Depeche Mode. There’s something dusky, commercially sinister and slithery in the way the track is formulated for maximum impact. It’s infused with a full focus on late night rhythmics for the denizens that only engage with the light of the moon. Though the synth structure is laid out somewhat tubularly it’s the low bass line that holds the whole plot together.

Card House (featuring Miles Cooper Seaton) was just released as a video, so if you are a multitasker who can read, listen and watch at the same time check this out:

Within the track a narrator takes you out on the town. The bleary-eyed beats speak of a drunken late night visitor with many faces in a state of madness. The track is unusual in that is feels quite internalized, not quite a dance track, not really an Underworld-style narrative vs the beat piece – it sort of floats in this territory sometimes covered by an artist like Barry Adamson. This paranoid short story is a brooding after midnight sleeper. There are moments of repose amid the exploration here, it’s refreshing that a DJ pop out of his wheelhouse to produce something different and a bit awkward in spots, in fact it’s like hearing his creative side for the very first time – outside the big blockbuster rave setting.

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Burn Slow is a showcase for a bit of his cerebral side that was bound to emerge. I wonder what this would sound like as one single track with even less beats? His nearly twenty-minute Trilogy is a true visionary anomaly in this set. What first comes off as a testing scanner of sorts evolves into an unexpected kronking techno house rambler. As layers of percussion are piled and detached, the atmospheric background drones and tones seep through the layers of thump and circumstance, forming a balanced foray into a new world for Liebing. About 3/4s in he pumps up the jam to full resilience, but, for me, it sort of takes away from the more elusive leaning of the track, showing its full-on pop proclivities. Taken us out is No Regrets (The Friend Pt. 2) (featuring Aleen), with an asymmetrical beat and thickly twisted synths, it’s shadowy and shaded darker than most of the other tracks. Aleen’s voice says she has “No regrets, just a journey….” Though still quite a commercially-driven sound this here wraps up the recording as something of a conceptual novelty amid Liebing’s normal crowd-pleasing wizardry.

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