Surgeon ‎– Breaking The Frame

Dynamic Tension Records ‎– DTRLP2
2 × Vinyl, 12", Album


A1 Dark Matter 0:55
A2 Transparent Radiation 6:44
A3 Remover Of Darkness 5:02
B1 The Power Of Doubt 5:36
B2 Radiance 6:40
C1 Presence 6:46
C2 We Are All Already Here 5:40
D1 Those Who Do Not 7:50
D2 Not-Two 4:11

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Tracks A1, A3, and B1 are shorter on the vinyl version.

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July 18, 2012
edited over 5 years ago

Surgeon is known for his abstract approach to minimal techno. On "Breaking the Frame", the veteran techno producer sacrifices some of the danceability found on his earlier albums to take even more experimental risks. It's a tedious affair that requires active listening to be enjoyed. For those of you like myself who aren't looking for intellectual stimulation, the lack of a functional groove can be frustrating.


July 1, 2012
I believe that Anthony Child requires no introduction. If you were listening to techno in the mid 90s you are familiar with his numerous releases as Surgeon on Tresor, Soma, Harthouse, and of course his very own labels, Counterbalance and Dynamic Tension. Those only waking up to his ground breaking sound must travel back in time and check out Communications (Downwards, 1996), Balance (Tresor, 1998) and Force + Form (Tresor, 1999) among the many others. This particular review, however, is focused on his very latest offering, Breaking The Frame, once again appearing on his own Dynamic Tension. It’s been over ten years since his last full-length album (remember, I’m not counting the numerous 12″ EPs here), and the expectations for the release are high. Will the album be a mere collection of previously released 4/4 heavy dance floor tracks, or will the globally renown artist deliver an anticipated album, taking the genre to the next level? It is definitely _not_ the former, and increasingly obvious that the latter is a true statement. I hope I didn’t confuse you with that convoluted question. What I meant to say is, yes, the album is amazing!

Incorporating elements from post-everything headphone-friendly genres of dark ambient, crunchy IDM, and bass heavy dubstep, Breaking The Frame explores the depths of sound and the environments in which it thrives. From pure drone brooding tracks, to syncopated electro beats, to Surgeon’s staple pounding techno, the atmosphere is eerie, tense, and incredibly cinematic. The muted textures are richly layered with focused attention to sound design, frequency overlap and stereo field composition, reminding the listener once again of Child’s impeccable production techniques. Nothing is over-processed, yet nothing remains boring and stale. Individual triggers and occurring events swirl in a kaleidoscope of sounds, leaving many new surprises for subsequent multiple listens. The highlight of the album for me is “RADIANCE” (also featured in my Analog Caverns and Digital Crypts podcast) where spring-like metallic echoes approach the Alva Noto meets Autechre aesthetic of micro precision abstract rhythms.

Breaking The Frame may appear to be a difficult record to the followers of straight up techno, looking for an album highlighting the best of Surgeon’s output. But to the purveyors of experimental electronic music, from abstract glitch to drony noise, the album will offer a concrete package where elemental particles fold neatly into space. Things are amazing on this side of the musical spectrum. If you can’t get enough of Surgeon, pick up his 2010 compilation for Fabric (London), Fabric 53, mixing up his selection of dubstep and techno tunes. Also, check out music by Lucy, Sandwell District, and Marcel Dettmann. Don’t pass this one by!


July 4, 2011
The title of this album is about as indicative of its content as any other any musician has ever come up with. The explanatory memorandum by the man himself was:
"This album isn't about entertainment, it's about transformation, and transformation requires effort on behalf of the aspirant.
My initial idea for this album project was to explore ideas of science fiction, but when I started the groundwork, it soon became obvious to me that my journey was one to inner rather than outer space.
I studied the music of La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Eliane Radigue, and Alice Coltrane, all of whom made deeply spiritual, abstract music. I was searching for the deep spiritual essence that lay behind the surface structures of their individual music.
This album is the closest I have been to reaching that point.
It has nothing to do with nihilism or dystopia; it has a purely utopian aesthetic."

To give it to you cooled off, cut to small bits, chewed up and ready to get spat in your mouth, "Breaking The Frame" just might be that point, that tip of the ice berg where we stop talking about Anthony Child as a prodigal techno producer, and start considering him a competent electronic music musician, a force to reckon with.
I have heard many disappointed listeners who were expecting some more floor fillers, especially after last year's "Compliance Momentum" or the (relatively) recent "Hello Oslo", however, the true sign posts of where would he end up sound wise were, in my opinion, the mixes he did for Fabric and Warp.
OK now, despite my initial reluctance, comparisons with Sandwell District are inevitable. When put up against "Feed Forward", there is only one certainty - "Breaking the Frame" is much darker. Beware, not better, not harder, not tighter, but just a nuance or two up the macabrism ladder. In fact, some sound experimentations Surgeon pulls off on this album make me think of the second disc of the absolutely spectacular Oscar Mulero full length from this year, rather than the aforementioned SD album.

Those who were expecting more banging beats... If you carefully listened to any of the previous Surgeon albums, especially the Tresor ones, you ought to remember the home listening:club devastating ratio, right? Sure, this one may have its focus slightly shifted towards my bed room, but then again why shouldn't it? For one, I don't consider this album an instant master piece or anything similar, though it's definitely an eye opener few could have anticipated. Personally, I just cannot get past some of those grimy, dubstep - whatever you call them - influences and stuff, as I still don't perceive anything chance worthy in that sound, but then again, my opinion doesn't weigh as much as Chuck D's uzi, sooooooo...

As far as the tracks themselves go, regardless of what you like, know, think you know, would like to know, know you would like, think you would like if you knew, would know if you liked, and what not, check out Radiance. Not because it's a career high, but because of that monstrous bass line, and the way it balances with shimmering shiny synth passages and opaque, menacing mechanical whip cracks.
Presence, for the mere fact it re-introduces something I've heard in a Surgeon track well over a decade ago, and always yearned for more of - the harp. Although this isn't as nearly as muscular as the tracks on the vintage Downwards compilation "Hard Education", the floating ambientesque sound, packed with trippy electronic immersions and classical instrument influences is irresistible.
Then, as formulaic as it may sound, the highlight is Those Who Do Not. Bottom line: this track on its own is so damn stentorian that it makes me realize why this album doesn't contain more dance floor orientated tracks - because it would make other producers run for cover. This is THE track which smacks the living hell out of Danny Trejo, takes his machete and cuts the fine balance between Screw The Roses and Compliance Momentum. Those with sharpened ears will even hear that evil Badger Bite synth pattern lurking in the background. Hell, those who questioned Surgeon's ability to wreck dance floors, I have only one thing to tell you: I am grateful that I belong to Those Who Do Not!

The salient features of this album are: eclecticism, diversity, balls like you wished you had and enough ideas to make the mercury inside anyone's radar suffer a sudden heart failure and drop dead. From industrial drone soundscpaes on Dark Matter and We Are All Already Here, broken beats, fractured rhythms, wounded rhythms, abstract mechanicals and forceful dance floor mechanisms, Anthony Child gives it a try no matter what. The final outcome? I think I will let you decide. However, do bare in mind that this seriously is a very mature album, which most probably will require multiple listening sessions in order to get fully absorbed. Like previously stated, not my favorite of his (in my book, it would take a napalm strike over my sub woofer for something to top off "Force + Form"), but then again, opinions like are ass holes, because everybody has got one!

And before I forget, the cover art is arguably the coolest thing I have seen stamped over a vinyl sleeve since the 1997 Pleiadians album "I.F.O.", the artwork is as confusing, versatile, intriguing and stimulating as the music throughout this album. If you like this, go for the "Grey Fades To Green" album by Oscar Mulero, I can hardly stress out the quality and standards set by that one!


May 24, 2011
Holy shit! I've only listened to the Youtube tracks so far, but this sounds like an absolute monster of an album.