HARMONIC 313: When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp Records)


Posted on Feb 12th 2009 01:12 am

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Harmonic 313: When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence

When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence
Warp Records 2009
15 Tracks. 57mins58secs

Icon: arrow Buy: CD | LP | iTunes

“Music is now a thing of the past”. With this small detail settled, on Music Substitute System, one could just turn the page and think of other things. The past is, after all, quite important in the case of Mark Pritchard, and is certainly substantial enough to satisfy without the need of adding any new sections to it. That’s where he was in turn Global Communication, Chameleon, Reload or Jedi Knights with Tom Middleton; Link or Troubleman alone, and was involved in truck-loads of other collaborative efforts, scattered on too many labels to care to mention.

His latest project, Harmonic 313, is an offshoot of Harmonic 33, the vessel he created with Dave Brinkworth at the end of the nineties. Swapping the vintage sci-fi library of Harmonic 33 for the equally old school vibe of Detroit techno, 313 referring to the ailing Motor City’s area code, Pritchard delivered a first angular and playful EP, soberly entitled EP1, last year. When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence continues on a similar tone, neatly packing 8-bit-drenched fidgety melodies, rumbling bass lines and twisted grooves into two minutes short of an hour. In Pritchard’s expert hands, the array of genres scanned, from greasy electro and gritty hip-hop to clean-cut acid and dirty techno, becomes one happy accident where nothing sounds like it should, works like it should or behaves like it should. It is, of course, all very much like he intended it to work, and work it does rather well.

All the way through, tracks develop in the most unexpected ways, at times stepping right in dubstep grooves that sounds like they were squeezed out of a Gameboy with very little shelf-life left in it (Dirtbox, Cyclotron C64 SID), or sounding like a happy slapping party (No Way Out), at others drifting along almost ethereal digital streams (Köln or the soulful Falling Away, with vocal contribution from Steve Spacek) or pushing deep into arcade territory (the Speak-&-Spell-tastic Word Problems or the more grown up Don’t Panic).

There is, it seems at first, very little flow as such, and certainly nothing that ties this jolly mess together in any coherent way. But Pritchard is no fool and works hard behind to direct the overall current exactly where he wants it to go. The result can be quite demanding at times, as the mind is constantly focused on new or altered components, and the flow of data thrown at it only seem to increase as the record progresses. A bit like with a giant maze, the trick is to step back and contemplate the whole thing from a distance; only then does the span of this album become tangible, and it becomes obvious that machines still have a long way to go to even dream of catching up with Pritchard’s intelligence.


Icon: arrow Mark Pritchard (MySpace) | Warp Records
Icon: arrow Buy: CD | LP | iTunes

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2 Responses to “HARMONIC 313: When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp Records)”

  1. Headphone Commuteon 17 Feb 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Although Harmonic 33’s Extraordinary People is one of my absolute favorite albums, this release does not disappoint. As you mentioned, some tracks were quiet unexpected and definitely explored unfamiliar territory. I would be brave as to classify it as beep-hop 8bit-step. :)

  2. […] it yet, but it’s a nifty mess of electro hip hop, techno, and dubstep — good writeup here). I’ve been enjoying the Voodeux and worriedaboutsatan LPs frequently during the workday and […]