Six months into 2017, the most surprising, and by extension interesting, trend to emerge has been a quiet string of comebacks from some of electronic music’s greatest innovators in the ’90s. Toward the beginning of the year, The KLF began to tease their own enigmatic comeback. In April, Wolfgang Voigt revived his Gas project with the haunting and sinister Narkopop. Two months later, pioneering junglist Goldie released his first album since 1998’s Saturnzreturn, The Journey Man, and spilled the beans on Banksy. And somewhere in between, German minimal techno duo Porter Ricks, whose brief moment of creation in the mid-’90s yielded one of the decade’s greatest slices of avant garde dance music, announced their return with new album Anguilla Electrica.
Anguilla Electrica arrives 20 years after Andy Mellwig and Thomas Köner released their self-titled second album as Porter Ricks, their legacy slowly fading out with the close of the millennium and the issue of a handful of singles and a split with Techno Animal. Yet they re-emerged last year with Shadow Boat, a three-track EP that revealed a somewhat noisier style of dub techno than what they had crafted on classic recordings like Biokinetics. Anguilla Electrica is a seething, nasty extension of that brief tease, its six tracks as violent and menacing as the duo’s ever sounded. It’s effectively a bridge between the sounds they crafted in their early collaborations and the modern generation that yielded, from the sexy hypnosis of The Field to the industrial art of Andy Stott.
The title track initially signals the album as being something shockingly aggro. At its core, it bears the same elements of a more familiar Porter Ricks track—the vast spaces, the steady techno pulse—but its eruptions of distortion feel more like a relic from the period where EBM discovered guitars. In other words, it’s more Nitzer Ebb, less Orb. Yet elsewhere the duo leans away from the intensity. “Port of Tangency” has a sumptuous modern techno sound about it, luxurious in its waves of harmonious synths and beautifully controlled chaos. “Prismatic Error” is perhaps the moment that feels most connected to the group’s oeuvre, its crashes and pulses less jarring than attractively corrosive. Yet “Scuba Rondo” feels like a return to the cyberpunk wilderness that the title track introduced, its fade-out sputters and swampy basslines sounding positively alien against the track’s steady, barely-there beat. It eases into something more dancefloor friendly, but there’s always a sense of danger lurking behind each repetition.
Anguilla Electrica is somewhat similar to Gas’ Narkopop in that both feel like much more unsettling versions of the music upon which their creators made their respective names. Yet by virtue of its momentum, Porter Ricks’ take feels more dramatic. It’s at times quite pretty, but by and large a seething and hostile thing, the kind of dancefloor fodder typically saved for a more vampiric clientele. That being said, they pull it off impressively, embracing this more confrontational sound without sacrificing the artful subtleties that made their music interesting in the first place. It’s still likely to catch some listeners off guard, but when it sinks its teeth in, it’s intoxicating.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.