Album of the Week: Broken English Club

For the past five years,  Techno veteran, Oliver Ho has been sculpting brutalist musical expressions as Broken English Club. The side project, which has featured on Jealous God, Citittrax and L.I.E.S has dominated Ho’s output in recent years, with the producer feigning the functional stomp of Techno for a music that lies somewhere between Swans, James Ruskin and a dystopian science fiction novel. Inspired by the works of JG Ballard, Broken English club combines elements of EBM, Acid, Techno and Electro with music that floats effortlessly between the dance floor and the album format.

On his most recent record for L.I.E.S, “White Rats” he leans towards the latter with an abstract narrative stalking the stark electronic ensembles. It strikes a general disillusioned tone through the soliloquies that accompany tracks like “Animal Town” and “Anonymous Death Tapes”as Ho creates a sonic backdrop as two dimensional as a slab of concrete and paints it with a rubber-like lacker. There’s a harshness to the music as synthetic stabs and hollow percussion jut out from the cold, brash backgrounds he creates.

For the most part “White Rats” plays on a monotonous, repetitive drone that lingers just a little to close for comfort with numbing effect. As Broken English Club, Ho has come a long way from his first album “Suburban Hunting” with the dance floor premise of his debut all but completely avoided on “White Rats”. “Funny Games”, “Let’s Play” and “God Man Dog” to offer some glimpses of the past with a regular percussive component to tap your feet to, but their repetitive nature and form inspire closer associations with a kind of ambient or drone style of music, than Techno.

I didn’t realise Broken English Club could strip its sound back even further, but on “White Rats” it’s succeeded. there’s never more than three or four parts playing at one time, but there’s a sense of space that overwhelms and almost suffocates the listener. Like Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori channeled through a set of headphones, Broken English CLub’s sound on “White Rats” confront the listener like and impenetrable wall. There’s this sense that you’re standing a big empty warehouse, but you’ve been made to face a cold wall, a wall of sound. It’s perhaps not the best album to get into Broken English Club for the first time,  but “White Rats” is certainly a powerful tour de force, and through every new album, Ho keeps nudging that envelop a little further away from his Techno roots and to further abstract corners.