I first became aware of the Perc Trax label earlier this year through the rather excellent Westerleigh Works EP by Ekoplekz and was impressed enough to dig a little deeper. The label was set up around eight years ago in London, UK by Ali Wells and has put out a slew of quality releases, quickly establishing a name for itself amongst the techno cognoscenti.
Forward Strategy Group are a collaboration between Patrick Walker and Al 'Smear' Matthews, their first EP was issued in 2009 and has since been followed by a handful of seriously skewed twelves which are all well worth tracking down.
Their debut album on Perc Trax kicks off with 'Ident' which begins with a pulsing bass throb and adds a twinkling synth line clothed in delay, the two elements set against a backdrop of rain and static fuzz. 'Mandate' follows and uses a minimal, gated snare and kick to counterpoint the thick bass stabs. Once again, the track is coated with a grimy patina of audio contamination.
Stark minimalism and a sense of decaying urban brutality abound throughout the whole album. Indeed, title track 'Labour Division' builds from a simple click / hiss rhythm and adds cavernous, tonally manipulated hits and a guttural drone swathed in reverb - nothing more. 'Fading Centres' is a caustic, rumbling drone set against a backdrop of metallic sounds and blurred field recordings whilst 'Metal Image' combines muted kick drums and dubby snares with all manner of industrially-tinged interjections. Final track 'Cultivar' loops a detuned, post-punk guitar sample and scribbles all over it with a trebly drum track which constantly teeters on the verge of distortion.
It's difficult not to use the word "industrial" rather literally when writing about this album as much of it contains so many sonic references and textural details which emanate from the factory floor as opposed to the dance floor. It's ringing, steely crashes and mechanised hisses are swathed in a crackling sheen of neglect and decay - a possible reflection of the stagnation and gradual decline of the British manufacturing industry following a programme of privatisation and closure during Margaret Thatcher's wholesale dismantling of Britain during the 1980's.
Highly recommended to anyone seeking a more challenging, nuanced take on the humble techno template.
The album is available through Bandcamp, somewhat fittingly housed in a metal tin and also as a high quality digital download.