FadeFace – “Luyten B EP” (Vexed Sphere) [December 15, 2021]

Northern California-based label Vexed Sphere returns with dripping and hypnotic, modular textured jams from NYC’s FadeFace, while continuing to explore the relationship between techno and advanced multimedia concepts.

Vexed Sphere started as a brand new experience this past April, standing at the crossroads of print media, graphic design, poetry, and of course, artistically driven techno. This new EP sees beautifully designed artwork by Rubidium, including limited edition apparel to coincide with the release. NYC’s Lemos label head, FadeFace approaches techno with a strong basis in using fluid pads, percussive soundscapes, heavy modular synthesis, and essential hypnotic grooves while tipping the hat toward influences like Abe Duque and his Brazilian upbringing.

The opening track ‘Entering the Atmosphere’ features a glassy, gliding aura full of glistening, resonant modular rhythms.The choice of lavender for the EP artwork seems to fit this particular track very well, as well as the rest of the songs throughout the EP.

The title track ‘Luyten B’ and second on the EP continues the celestial theme, with ethereal synth bleeps and deep reverberating space pads. An insistent drum beat guides this exploration, from the sound of passing ships, coasting on long, bassy resonant filter sweeps to the glassy futuristic chords.

If you were doubting the space theme, it’s surely confirmed in this ‘First Encounter’ track. A definite nod to Mills’ sci-fi conceptually in name, the track still maintains FadeFace’s uniquely signature aesthetic. You don’t often hear a well-executed modular hybrid track, unless mentioning Surgeon or Blawan. All business, FadeFace’s synthesis method is merely a means to an end as with other gear—an overarching textural aesthetic. It’s exciting to see an artist use that concept while delivering some serious hammers.

The fourth offering ‘Symbiosis’ hints to the idea that humans and aliens have found a happy medium together farming funky, abstract ambient landscapes together. The soundscapes are downright bucolic. Picture giant cartoonish mountains on a moon with pearly liquid defying all previously known laws of physics. But this is just one interpretation; the door’s left wide open for the mind to explore.

The EP closes out with JX-216’s stellar, yet slamming uptempo remix of ‘Entering the Atmosphere’, which strongly roots the track on an insistent drum machine push. The intensity really hammers the remix of the track home as blips from the original are chopped to fill the groove and lay a bed for the drums to sit. The overall feeling is very much about control, and there’s a sonically dynamic death grip across all of the elements. To relinquish control is to succumb to the beat, and when you do, it’s such a release. 

The big takeaway from this EP is the epiphany that one can make modular a functional element while also making it contextually relevant outside the realms of noodling and experimentation. FadeFace proves that if the end goal is similar to fixed architecture synths, you can provide a really interesting analog texture to techno that’s not often explored. It almost harks back to a time when analog synths were all over the early-to-mid 90s or the recent FM, synthesis love affair. For what you can do with modular, incorporating it as a sonic texture is a great and unique choice showing exciting prospects for the future of techno music.

-Sean Ocean

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