For some, the name Alec Empire won’t mean diddily squat. To others it will mostly conjure up images of dank, sweaty clubs with glitch techno beats, heavy guitar riffs, treated vocals and clattering drums bouncing off the walls.
Founder of German industrial dance act Atari Teenage Riot, Empire has become the forefather of the mildly terrifying subgenre, digital hardcore. Usually politically charged and reminiscent of aural warfare, his own songs have always been an acquired taste.
It’s almost a relief to realise that he’s mellowed somewhat over time. Shivers, a mini-album that lays the groundwork for a new full album later this year, is a relatively enjoyable listen, Empire creating interesting musical sound-beds for his somewhat monotonous voice. Everything from stark, minimal techno (Control Drug) to languid, sinister mood pieces (the title track) is tackled with a cold, mannered precision.
It’s also feels like a good time for him to return seeing as his influence is starting to re-emerge out from his warehouse studio in Berlin to, if not the mainstream, then certainly the wider musical world. As well as co-producing and appearing on a couple of tracks on Patrick Wolf‘s forthcoming new album, The Bachelor, he’s also roped in Robbie Furze from newcomers The Big Pink for vocal duties on the brilliant, pulsating If You Live Or Die.
Baby Skull is perhaps the most interesting and diverse track. Opening with a delicate electronic noise reminiscent of Aphex Twin, an unexpectedly funky guitar riff emerges briefly recalling The Rapture of all people, before that disconnected voice appears to battle strange gurgles and electronic fizzes that rise and fall.
Only 1000 Eyes (Film Version) fails to really hold your attention, its treated guitar feedback and whiney keyboards making it sound like a Nine Inch Nails b-side. But on the whole Shiver is an engaging, occasionally brilliant taster from an artist that doesn’t compromise on his sound. Slowly, it seems, music is beginning to come round to his way of thinking.