Tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 to 9, 12 to 15 recorded and mixed at the Wizard Of Oz Studio. Tracks 2 & 11 recorded at Presshouse Studio 2 and mixed at Wizard Of Oz Studio. Track 5 recorded "in a Köln hotel" and mixed at Wizard Of Oz Studio. Track 10 recorded at the Redbull Music Academy, Melbourne and mixed at Wizard Of Oz Studio.
"Dirtbox" kicks off Mark Pritchard's Harmonic 313 album, WHEN MACHINES EXCEED HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, with some dirty, grimy bass, while "Cyclotron" has a jittery, over-caffeinated twitch to it. The relentless beat of "No Way Out" seems to underscore the light organ line trapped beneath it. "Köln," on the other hand, has some melancholy IDM to its stately proceedings. I know Pritchard is returning to his love of Detroit techno and hip-hop, but something about this album isn't as immediate as his other work. Sure, "Word Problems" is sort of hilarious, but when the lyricists come onto "Battlestar" you're not sure whether to laugh or cry (it's the logical extension of his love of hip-hop, but can someone tell the wack MCs that aggression is no substitute for wordplay?). "Cyclotron C64 SID" brings things back with some chiptune awesomeness that sample the old video game Galaga, if I'm not mistaken. "Flaash" is spare electro, and "Don't Panic" has an unhurried feel to it. Steve Spacek's vocals on "Falling Away" adds a spacey soul into the mix, and "Quadrant 3" ends the album on an almost orchestral note, with the machines finally working in tandem, ending on an ambient note. For right now, at least, the humans are still winning.
This debut album from Harmonic 313 sees producer Mark Pritchard blend heavy dubstep basslines with Detroit style hip-hop and electro.
The opening track, Dirtbox sets the scene with its gritty bass and raw synth percussion. It’s certainly refreshing to hear analogue circuitry used so prominently in a modern recording and it is from this that the album gains the majority of its sonic character.
No Way Out and Flaash have a distinct Drexciya feel to them, albeit with a more laid-back demeanour.
Cyclotron, Word Problems, and Call to Arms are all great tunes which utilise similar sounds with more traditional hip-hop grooves, and Mark gives the timings his unmistakable swing. I can’t help but feel that he listened to a couple of Dabrye records and remarked ‘I could do that.’
This feeling is underlined in heavy ink by Battlestar with Phat Kat & Elzhi, which is actually a great piece of hip-hop. While the lyrics are too aggressive for my tastes and ultimately devoid of worthy content, the delivery is top-notch. There’s plenty of detail to keep things moving along, from the synth stabs of the verses, or the silky pads and tight scratching of the chorus. Despite being one of the least original tracks on offer, I feel this is the album’s finest three minutes. 313’s Battlestar rivals Dabrye’s effort ‘Game Over’, although we know who made theirs first!
There are lighter, warmer patches to the album. The pretty synth melodies of Köln and Galag-a have a distinct ‘Planet Mu’ sound to them, while the sensitive reflection of Steve Spacek’s vocals in Falling Away provide a welcome contrast to the misogynist boasts of Battlestar.
As a big fan of Mark Pritchard, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with this CD. Sure, it is a great album, but one that I would probably have felt better about had I not known who was behind it. I for one would love to see Mark collaborate with Dave Brinkworth again, as I feel that Harmonic 33’s Extraordinary People CD and Kirsty Hawkshaw’s O>U>T have a really wholesome, original feel that still sound fantastic today, and I’m just not so sure that this 313 album will stand the test of time so favourably.
Although this may seem slightly unfair, I will only give this album 4 out of 5 stars, since Mark can do better than this. However, it is a fine example of future/retro electronica that I whole heartedly recommend listening to.
When Mark Pritchard first released EP1 (Warp, 2008) under his newly refreshed moniker, Harmonic 313, I got extremely excited about his comeback. After all, I'm a huge fan of his output under a number of aliases, the most favorite being Harmonic 33 and Global Communication. The EP stepped up in bass, and dropped down to 8-bit sound, falling somewhere between abstep (abstract dubstep), electro and Detroit-style experimental hip-hop (313 being its area code). And that was just a teaser. His return with When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp, 2009), picks up right where the EP left off, and slams it back into our faces. It takes a few listens to truly appreciate the genius behind this album. Mostly because your ears are not accustomed to such rubber morphing of the genres. Falling somewhere along the lines of experimental hip-hop by Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus , and J Dilla, the tracks on Machines Exceed Human Intelligence are strangely unique in its own domain. The bass on the tracks is raw, grinding, and wobbly, accompanied by broken syncopated beats, sci-fi chords, and arcade game laser melodies. This flight through a 2D acid flahsback is at the same time an evil and fun experience. Think Nintendo's Spy vs. Spy [hmm, that link was a total Google accident] clashing in the fight between black and white. It is, as if machines not only exceed our intelligence in the future, but actually came back to play with our own favorite toys. The interlude titled, Cyclotron C64 SID, is a testament to Pritchard's tribute to everything retro. After listening to the album half a dozen times, and getting the melodies stuck in my head, I must recognize Pritchard as a continuous pioneer of styles. From ambient, to trip-hop, to experimental hip-hop with elements of dubstep, Pritchard is able to keep up with the trends, adapt to the endless evolution of sound and even invent a few of his own genres along the way - I call it bleep-hop. Glad to see him back on Warp. If you already own the album and the EP, pick up Global Communication's Fabric 26 mix (Fabric, 2005), as well as my all time favorite, Extraordinary People (Alphabet Zoo, 2002) by Harmonic 33. Recommended if you like the above mentioned names, as well as Moderat, Headhunter, 2562, and Lukid.