Anhedonia – Destructive Forces

Aliens Production (AP 11), 2006

For those with familiarity, the comparisons are immediate and obvious:  Anhedonia sounds a lot like Gridlock.  The two projects share the same template of broken percussive patterns wrapped in synthetic ambiance.  Anhedonia, the creative outlet of Vojtech Smetana, is clearly influenced (as are many others) by Gridlock’s groundbreaking fusion of chaos and emotion, but Anhedonia does have differences that separate it enough to create its own identity.  In this way, Smetana keeps his music from becoming a mere clone, and instead, Anhedonia becomes an admiring follower, branching into territory that’s obviously inspired, but ultimately of Smetana’s own design.

Destructive Forces doesn’t match the visceral power and haunting profound emotion of Gridlock, but that’s not surprising; I’ve yet to hear an artist in a similar vein that does.  Anhedonia is no slouch in the songwriting and arrangement departments, however, and creates and maintains a rhythmic energy that moves through the music like a coiling cybernetic serpent.  The title track takes the Gridlock formula and fits it into a momentous near-EBM-style anthem, complete with sequenced rhythms, backing synths, and irresistible drum programming.  It’s Gridlock, refitted for the dancefloor, and bears more than a passing resemblance to Wells’ & Cadoo’s debut, The Synthetic Form.

Over the course of Destructive Forces, however, Anhedonia gradually moves away from Gridlock’s deep long shadow into its own territory.  A slow jagged beat is the center of “Malfunction”, while distant noise and clicks orbit melodic keyboards.  Smetana adds percussive elements as the track progresses, increasing the complexity without losing sight of the foundation.  Destructive Forces wears its Gibson-influenced template on its cybernetic sleeve, too; with tracks titled “Bad Sector” and “Chiba City Blues,” it’s easy for Gibson fans to imagine Case threading his virtual way through the geometry of the matrix with Anhedonia’s music as company and guide.  This is a sci-fi album, without apology; it’s Access to Arasaka, but with drive, focus, and direction.

The straining distorted drums of “Neurological Seizure” will put a grin on the face of any IDM fan, while the dramatic backdrop and scattered samples with appeal to those with post-industrial tastes.  The sparseness of “Stir Up the Dust,” which also appears in remixed form courtesy of Aliens Production founders Disharmony, switches into EBM glory thanks to a wonderfully old-school bass synth and pounding drums.  “Icecold” is one of the tracks whose foundation struggles to escape the pull of Gridlock’s ghost, but Smetana keeps the inertia high enough to divert the track from the chasm of copycat-ism.  “Chiba City Blues” is a grit-laden, neon-soaked, magnificently bristling synthetic creature that is one of the album’s more dramatic and effective highlights.  Things slow down and retract just enough on “Whitespace”, but not to the degree of letting Smetana’s honed sense of ambiance gain too strong a foothold.

Clearly, it’s nigh impossible to discuss Anhedonia without mentioning Gridlock.  The two projects share so many common elements, they’re almost related.  Like siblings, however, Anhedonia has followed the example set by its elder brother and managed to demonstrate respect and influence while finding and staying true to itself.  Gridlock’s place as an underground electronic innovator is well deserved, and while many clones exist, Anhedonia’s cyberhymn-laced debut is arguably the best of the bunch.

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