ALBUM: Bruce – ‘Sonder Somatic’
WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER
In electronic music, the most resonant albums and tracks are those that strike at the heart of the community, conveying memories while aiming to create new ones. Bristol-based techno producer Larry McCarthy, AKA Bruce, is devoted to the most personal aspects of the diagram. His music has always torn away any veils of conventionalism to underpin a playfully outlandish hand, taking core elements and twisting them out of time and place. Making the obscure accessible is hard to perfect, but in the case of Bruce’s back catalogue he’s often managed it with a thrilling smoothness.
In many ways, the release of his debut full-length album ‘Sonder Somatic’ on Hessle Audio feels like a homecoming. His previous releases on the label (2016’s ‘Steals’ and 2014’s ‘Not Stochastic’ – EPs respectively) have occupied the same innovative world-scape, playing sumptuous floor-filling kicks and alien atmospherics off against each other, with a mischievous sonic smile overhanging it all. But it’s the exploratory nature of Hessle Audio’s output that suits Bruce‘s placement here so brilliantly. He’s talked openly about the label’s influence on him over the years, so the synergy that winds up here seems only right and proper.
The LP was written ‘partly as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space’, and on ‘Sonder Somatic’ Bruce wastes no time in going for the jugular. The whole thing sounds absolutely huge, for starters. Whereas before the late-night rawness of his music could occasionally feel opaque, on the LP a crystal-clear sheen sets its primal nuances and physicality against a gorgeous big room backdrop.
Crucially though, he focuses on inviting and then reducing ambiences, atmospheres and myriad percussive senses. It allows for a constant sense of idiosyncratic motion that rises and falls and creates new imperatives whenever they are most necessary. This is executed most effervescently at the mid-way point and the trajectory between the shuddering tension of ‘Meek’ and ambient of ‘Torn’, which is spotted with ghosts of breakbeat-y decadence, into previously released single ‘What’. The latter re-engages his most banging sensibilities with an intense sense of joy – caterwauling vocals, a deliriously catchy lead loop and the same unpredictable drum sequencing brought to a mighty zenith.
The notion that ‘Sonder Somatic’ reflects both Bruce’s professional and recreational relationship with club culture is purveyed inimitably too. Whether it’s through swaggering heaters built upon historic UK bass mechanisms (as on the opening salvo of ‘Elo’ and ‘Cacao’) or the freezing, small-hours surging lope of ‘Baychimo’ and lullaby-esque grind of ‘Patience St Pim’, a see-saw of hedonism and an absorbing approach is delivered near-perfectly.
While the LP will do plenty for chin-stroking types and those always seeking to be challenged on dancefloors, at the core of ‘Sonder Somatic’ is the most communal aspect of club culture; personality. Bruce is one of the most singular techno artists operating right now, and the music here continues to define him as one of the most innovative and sensitive.