Exium – “Surface Erosion EP” (MORD) [October 15, 2021]

The 80th release of the Rotterdam label MORD sees a strong EP by the Spanish duo Exium, Surface Erosion EP, featuring 4 tracks of caustic, gritty, relentless techno. Exium incorporates a few radical musical concepts without letting it be overly self-indulgent, and keeping it within the techno modus operandi.

In the past Exium have been known to come together and provide this rich, deep atmosphere-laden sound that is easy to get lost in. Over the past few years however, Exium has taken on a new direction, a more upfront and compressed linear driven sound that confronts you with this monolith of sound. This newest EP is certainly a continuation of that and it’s most evident on the blistering first track of the EP, “Erosion 1.”

“Erosion 1” comes at you thick with all the acid concepts including distorted 909 work out, old school rides and of course, an incessant ripping acid line. Under all of which the track is squashed thick with compression as an effect, so that the acid and drums are writhing under compression, trying to break free. The result is that you’re squirming at the whim of the acid line with an itch that will not quit. The whole track never really breaks, which is kind of unique and departs from standard song formatting of techno and maybe even the dance music framework set down by disco long ago.

“Erosion 2” follows with a more subdued theme but is no less relentless. A great deal of the elements within it are restrained tastefully, and Exium doesn’t let them go. There is constant compression and control with a steady hand while new elements are slowly introduced. The syncopated kick here is not overbearing and refuses to call attention to itself, which is superb since it functions as a great alternative to the standard 4/4. The only time you actually notice the kick is after the main break, when it becomes clear that the kick was artfully kept under the radar the whole time by this big dark cloud where things occasionally emerge out of the mist.

“Erosion 3” brings us back into some familiar territory with its sweeps and 909 drum machine techniques. The thing keeping it within the realm of experimentation and where Exium is happiest, is the distorted and warped FM synth pattern that takes center stage. The rest of the track elements being a vehicle for this very non standard, dissonant and enharmonic synth line. As an aside, it’s really where we should be in techno. Techno musicians should be trying out musical inventions and finding ways to exploit those ideas…this track shows that Exium is still willing to explore musical concepts within techno and help advance the genre.

“Erosion 4” sets us up with a very nice and calming autopanned synth arpeggio that really makes the track have a hushed, controlled aspect to it. As the track progresses it is met with atmospheric sweeps and filtering on top of a skeletal drum track. The track itself is a peaceful inviting end to an EP that has a vibe of a clenched yet caring fist.

Exium really have pulled out some surprises here on this EP as a part of their evolution as a duo and also for their willingness to not be satisfied by making a few bangers that fit well in a DJ set. They choose to be experimental, and try to incorporate a few radical musical concepts without letting it be overly self-indulgent, and keeping it within the techno modus operandi.

They seem to be saying “look at what we found” and “techno can be like this too.” Again, this is where we should be in techno; unafraid, conceptually unique, full of style, skillfully executed, and artistically driven.

-Sean Ocean

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