It’s unsurprising in a certain light to learn that Ital Tek’s career started in the tail end of the first wave of dubstep, before its mass proliferation and when it still possessed the sense of urban menace that a combination of dub, garage and two-step might have. Less surprising still is his evolution in the first few years that followed to pursue paths of IDM and footwork. Those elements still remain on Bodied but, like his previous full-length Hollowed, they are emaciated, unwhole, skeletal. Bodied sounds like stems of a dance album with the rest turned off, the accoutrements and haunting ambiance that would otherwise gird and color a track meant for sweat and psychic disintegration of the club left bare to the open air. You can almost sense an underlying pulse, a few elements away from being able to dance however dismally to the tunes, but this bodily release is denied, leaving you in limbo.
It is clearly intentional. Like all-time great Burial, Ital Tek most took notes from dubstep on how to build and texture a mood. There is enough beat remaining here so as not to detach entirely from that lineage, refusing to let the album turn into a soundtrack for a sweeping geological nature documentary that has not been made; these songs exist in the body, bodies trapped in urban and suburban environments, lingering on the dissociated doorway between vivacity and ghost towns. For the most part, Ital Tek is successful, and scanning moment-to-moment or track-by-track, it would be hard to find a dud of the collection. However, there is a structural issue, which is that the release is nearly an hour long and, while it possesses some variance, still largely seeks to accomplish the same imagistic theme. It’s hard for attention to stay focused for that length, and the tracks have too many little sonic nuggets in them for it to feel proper for this to become wallpaper music as some records seek to do.
Still, it’s hard not to imagine that the ideal setting for this record is of a nocturnal walk through a sleeping or barely-sleeping city, streetlights and deep cutting shadow and the strange claustrophobia of a night sky pressing against a jacket-and-hood clad body scurrying, eyes fixed down on the sidewalk, through the quiet. And tucked into this setting, one that mirrors the physicality of the dance floor but displaces it to somewhere lonelier, more isolated, more psychically skeletal than the braven and vulgar psychic assault of a club, it’s not hard to see this structural issue diminishing somewhat. It almost feels like a vestigial impulse on Ital Tek’s part, cramming a disc nearly full of tracks in an era where discs are more or less obsolete. Most artists would have culled four or five tracks for a partner EP, leaving a sharpened crystal for the LP proper; this record would have benefited from such a trim. But perhaps, too, the somewhat unshapeliness of the record is in some way a thematic touch, an endless expanse of similar-but-different buildings or scenes that don’t knit together as much as they coexist in paradox and multiplicity, fanning out and out into the distance.
Regardless: both options reflect a sense of thematic pessimism when it comes to modernity, one that has been taken into the body. There is a sense of loss, absence; the emaciation of these former-dance tracks feels thematically relevant, like they wish to return there but are now unable to go back, set loose on some Orphean underworld odyssey of night and isolation.
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.