5 out of 5
Label: WeMe Records
Produced by: Black Narcissus
Look, man – you gotta start telling me how to know when vinyl is 33 1/3 RPMs versus 45 when it’s not labeled. I try to go fall back on some general rules – if it’s an EP it’s usually 45 RPMs, for example – but then I get tripped up by double LPs like this where it’s only 2 tracks per side, and I try it out at 45 RPM and it sounds pretty good, so why not? Right, right, if I’d abided by my first rule, I would’ve realized it was 33 1/3rd, but I’m telling you: no matter what my first choice would’ve been, it would’ve been wrong.
Thankfully: a lot of techno can work at either speed… and double thankfully, Black Narcissus’ Fatale is so devastatingly good that it’s worth the return spin, and actually kind of magically switched up the mood of the whole experience…
I’ll review at 33. ‘Fatale’ seems appropriate: tracks are dripping with a sense of mystery and danger, the hard electro edge and persistent beat kept nervy by Black Narcissus’ additions of harsh chirps and effects, but all in due course and at proper intervals. Tracks keep up a section for just long enough to get you sweating, then drop back down to the core beat, then bring it back in another variation and so on. The track title formatting’s repetition may be suggestive of deeper links I’m not picking up, but besides the persistently aggressive backbone of the album, each track has a unique vibe to it, with the ‘Hwar’ tracks perhaps being just a skosh more house-geared.
This is also a case where the format is a big benefit: ‘Fatale’ is a pretty overwhelming listen all at once, as it nearly never relents (excepting a slick fade out on the final track – another bonus point, for an electronic artist considering the work as an album and not just single cuts); having the pause after every 2 or 3 tracks to flip sides / switch LPs is a nice breather, and leaves the memory of the beat ticking along in your head, allowing it to sink in, until it’s abolished by the next side’s opener.
If there’s a touchpoint here, it’s probably 90s-era Rephlex house output, but that’s maybe a bit misleading, as BN dips into some retro beats and affectations here and there, and definitely reaches forward into some icy IDM touches as well, but again, all tied together with its very purposeful forward momentum and dark tone.
…And then played at 45 RPM, swap out “mystery and danger” for “threatening and heart-attack causing” – but, y’know, a good heart attack – and you’ve got a whole new album to listen to.