Objekt — Cocoon Crush (November 9, 2018)Location: Berlin, Germany
Album release: November 9, 2018
Record Label: PAN
01. Lost and Found (Lost Mix) 2:32
02. Dazzle Anew 3:37
03. 35 4:39
04. Nervous Silk 5:15
05. Deadlock 3:33
06. Rest Yr Troubles Over Me 5:00
07. Silica 3:17
08. Runaway 4:28
09. Secret Snake 5:59
10. Another Knot 1:10
11. Lost and Found (Found Mix) 7:13
SAM DAVIES. NOV 6, 2018. Score: 9/10
✹ A work of scientific beauty.
✹ Scientists create new machines. So goes the robotically intoned lyric in “New Machines,” the opening track from Simulant’s 1998 EP Simm City. Tresor’s remastering of the track as part of last year’s Scopex 98~00 brought it and the rest of British electro label Scopex’ mysterious output to surface~level internet consciousness. But TJ Hertz — better known as Objekt — had been playing Scopex tunes for years.
✹ By Simulant’s definition, Hertz can rightly define himself as a scientist. After completing an engineering degree at Oxford, he worked at German tech company Native Instruments as a software developer, learning how to turn signals into audio and how to change certain qualities in that audio by altering those signals.
✹ In a more abstract, less painfully technical sense, Objekt’s new album positions the artist in the role of scientist — not in a zany, Dr. Brown way, or even in the way that most artists mess around with machines in search of music, but in a way that sees a producer building tracks as though they are machines. These are not static soundscapes or examples of sonic architecture, but moving, functioning things that don’t always behave the same way. Cocoon Crush, on PAN like Objekt’s debut LP, Flatland, is the most experimental, scientific work in the artist’s oeuvre. Yet like any mad scientist (maybe there is a touch of Dr. Brown), Objekt is forever striving to bring his machines to life.
✹ The Scopex link is pertinent with regard to the development in Objekt’s sound, too. When he first emerged in 2011, he was touted as a golden child of dubstep (or at least post~dubstep), but an underreported influence on the artist is that of electro. Aside from sharing singles with Dopplereffekt and remixing The Exaltics, Objekt has previously aligned with a resistance of technoid 4/4 on tracks like “Balloon” and “Ratchet.” Cocoon Crush goes beyond electro’s characteristic restlessness by largely eschewing obvious tempos altogether.
✹ Take “35,” possibly the clubbiest track on the record. A snare karate~kicks throughout the track — constant yet irregular — only to be interrupted without warning by passages of glacial ambience. “Silica” centres on the ambience, but with volatile drums programmed to burst through seemingly of their own accord. Talking about the track in his recent RBMA lecture, Hertz stated an intention to “push and pull” the listener rather than simply carry them forwards. It’s a function that could be extended to the whole album, and it’s performed to dazzling effect.
✹ While Objekt sounds as singular as ever here, his avant~garde, anti~repetitive electro (as well as his love of machines) calls to mind recent Aphex Twin, from Syro to this year’s Collapse EP. Cocoon Crush’s “Secret Snake,” for example, is comparable to Aphex’s “T69 Collapse” in both sound — crunchy, punishing rhythms followed by heavenly choral wash — and efficacy. The opening few minutes of both tracks are fairly unremarkable, like AI~generated impressions of their creators, but both are saved by brilliant, otherworldly second halves, so good they make you think the boring bits were vital after all.
✹ Incidentally, “Collapse,” with its mental, Weirdcore~directed visual, calls to mind the relative dearth of Objekt music videos. It would be nice to see Cocoon Crush interpreted for the screen, though it’s worth stressing that it’s already so vivid as to almost seem visible. While this album is — to use a cliché most often reserved for Harry Potter films — much darker than the last one, it’s also somehow more colourful, its creator discovering even more depth in his HD audio.
✹ Shelving the scientist metaphor for a moment, it’s worth stating just how much the “producer” tag suits Hertz, perhaps more fittingly even than “artist.” Objekt’s painstaking approach towards sound design (he’s mentioned spending an entire day perfecting a kick drum) has made his music the kind you download in wav. form even though your laptop doesn’t really have the spare memory. Doing so will reward anyone listening to Cocoon Crush centrepiece “Rest Yr Troubles Over Me” on headphones in a dark room. The track drones like a resting spaceship, tones ranging from ominous church bell to earsplitting “Ventolin” screech, overset with the croaky android vocals which recur throughout the album. It’s terrifying, breathtaking, and one of the finest pieces of music Objekt has ever created.
✹ Equally skin~crawling is “Runaway.” The track creaks, clanks and ratchets towards a chilling middle section in which, if you peer into the oily mist, you can hear the distant sound of children playing. Then you won’t be able to unhear it. The final few minutes unspool into a neo~percussive dance track befitting of Burnt Friedman or Second Woman. Its unnerving experimentalism make it the kind of track not many DJs would go near, but also one I’d pay well over the odds to hear in a club.
✹ The whole artifice threatens to splutter to a halt with penultimate one~minuter “Another Knot,” but it all makes sense once the album’s colossal closer hits. After an intro you might have found on Autechre’s Amber, a neonatal appliance blinks itself awake. Figures echoing earlier points in the album, fuzzes of white noise build until, at the four~minute mark, an eruption of life. There’s something triumphant about the gorgeous, arcing Blade Runner brass line, Cocoon Crush’s melodic crescendo. It’s as though the narrative transformation is complete, as though Objekt’s mad machine has at last become a superorganism.
✹ The album’s filmic progression evokes all kinds of cinematic imagery, but one example in particular springs to mind: Alex Garland’s Annihilation, a psychedelic sci~fi thriller about the transformative behaviour of a foreign ecosystem, with a climax to match that of Cocoon Crush. Everything from the album’s sharp, shimmering opulence (its cover could be a still from Annihilation) to its thematic interactions between machine and being align it with Garland’s apocalyptic work. Objekt — whether artist, producer or mad professor — is on top of his game, and his latest creation is as beautiful as it is powerful. ✹ https://www.xlr8r.com/
✹ PAN welcomes back Objekt for Cocoon Crush, his first LP since 2014’s Flatland. Over the past four years Objekt has continued to challenge conventions with his club output (the Objekt #4 single release and the Kern Vol. 3 mix CD for Tresor), while maintaining his reputation as a DJ who deploys impeccable technical finesse in crafting elaborate narratives from a diverse and challenging palette of electronic music.
✹ Written between 2014 and 2018 in Berlin and on the road, Cocoon Crush once again sees the producer jettisoning the functional requirements of the dancefloor. Marking a further evolution from the youthful exuberance of Flatland, Cocoon Crush explores a more introspective side, with themes of human interaction resonating throughout the record as it ruminates on a spectrum of complex moods rooted in 4 years of sometimes turbulent personal experience.
✹ Cocoon Crush represents an aesthetic departure from Flatland’s largely synthetic tonality, drawing from organic source material and natural textures to illustrate perplexing and unfamiliar sceneries in photorealistic detail. In Cocoon Crush, Objekt diverges further still from his musical influences to craft the purest manifestation of his own musical personality to date: an intriguing and enigmatic album whose reference points are hard to pin down, in which ghostly synth passages weave through mind~bending, weighty drums, and ASMR~triggering foley collages scrape and sparkle. Through meticulous sculpting, Objekt traces a rich and impressionistic journey through claustrophobia, hope, guilt, anxiety and joy, nested in layers of sonic detail which reward with every listen.
✹ The album is mastered by Rashad Becker, featuring photography by Kasia Zacharko, and layout by Bill Kouligas.
✹ “Through meticulous sculpting, Objekt traces a rich and impressionistic journey through claustrophobia, hope, guilt, anxiety and joy, nested in layers of sonic detail which reward with every listen.”
• TJ Hertz probably needn’t have used an artist pseudonym for his work, but for whatever reason, he has released music as Objekt for the past few years. Originally somewhat of a prodigal son of the “post~dubstep” movement, he has since developed his sonic scope to reach the extended tendrils of electronic music. His sound is a sort of “hyper~detail,” where each minuscule piece of waveform or frequency seems to have been shaped meticulously into dazzling form. This has all really been par for the course for Hertz, but on Cocoon Crush, it has never rung more true in what surely is a masterpiece of modern electronic music.
• Hertz has always been a practitioner of refined sound design, to an almost obsessive degree. What is new in Cocoon Crush is the almost incomprehensibly organic approach to cohesion in his music. Many sounds feel as they were torn from some parallel universe and played on some instrument of unknown origin. It sounds real, but it isn’t, if that makes sense. This is the key distinction between Flatland, Objekt’s previous LP, and Cocoon Crush. If Flatland was unabashedly digital and synthetic, Cocoon Crush is a tropical rainforest teeming with life.
• On “Lost and Found (Lost Mix),” we get our first sampling of this. The central melody could almost have been pulled from some sort of distant ocarina, and it floats above a fluid foundation of synthesizer and cinematic foley sounds. This sort of approach was definitely alluded to in his recent Red Bull Music Academy lecture, where he goes into some of the techniques to his sound. The first portion of the album is candidly melodic, and strikes an emotional chord. “Dazzle Anew” floats in a shimmer, then twists and turns into the well~established Objekt~isms. “35” is likely the most dance~floor~ready track on the album, and it is entirely cathartic. The robotic vocal sample is almost certainly a nod to Boards of Canada, and although the melody is similarly affective, the sound itself is represented in crystalline quality.
• There are certain sounds that are similar to Objekt’s own white label release “Needle & Thread” on Objekt #4, although I hesitate to use the word recycled. Rather, similar sounds are repurposed and mangled into new form in “Nervous Silk,” and later on in “Runaway.” “Nervous Silk” represents a turning point in the album’s progression, where consonant and optimistic melodics become more eerily dystopian. “Deadlock” chugs along with a sort of manic boom bap, and “Rest Yr Troubles Over Me” belies reliance on any form of percussion, instead resting on a foreboding synthetic bell sound.
• “Runaway” is as frantic as its title would suggest, especially at the conclusion. Rattling arpeggiation and disparately struck drums add to the sense of tribalism within the track. Next, “Secret Snake” balances a perfect relationship between atmospheric ambience and rhythmic impetus, with an excellent main riff that appears past the halfway mark. It eventually warps into lush pads that mark the beginning of “Another Knot,” which too harkens back to Objekt sounds of old. It serves as a transitional moment before the concluding track “Lost and Found (Found Mix),” and what a conclusion it is.
• Cocoon Crush does an excellent job of maintaining thematic progression within an electronic context, not a simple task. “Lost and Found (Found Mix)” cleverly ties into the similarly named introductory track, but injects it with new life and a different accompanying cast. Things totally break down into distortion around a third of the way through, but rebuild almost operatically to let the final notes of our foreign ocarina ring out, effectively and conclusively.
• Artists that push themselves with every release are rare, and rarer still are the artists where each new frontier is a successful one. Objekt is one of those, and Cocoon Crush demands to be listened to intently and completely. The arrangements themselves are never predictable, twisting and turning with opportunistic glee, marrying the fluidity of his role as a sonic architect. Superlatives can often be tossed around carelessly when describing music, but in TJ Hertz’ case, they are wholly and utterly deserved. • https://objekt.bandcamp.com/album/cocoon-crush