Purveyor of electronic noise Ren Schofield, aka Container, is back with his first album since 2018, as well as his first since the tetralogy of “LP”s that made up his 2010s output. Scramblers is characterised by rapid, overdriven beats, and the variety that Schofield ekes out of this formula is a joy to behold.
The bass bangs, bounces, purrs, growls, and in the case of Mottle makes a pleasingly squelchy sound, while the percussion sizzles and plays disorienting metric tricks. Opening track Scramblers contains frantic scattered bleeps and sounds reminiscent of plucking door strings, and sets the pace for the hard-hitting beats, raspy tones and sizzling high-end to come.
The album has an ambivalent relationship with danceability, some tracks – Nozzle, Duster – hinting at a groove while others, such as Queaser with its suitably queasy synth, are overcome by rudderless syncopation. Melody is a million miles away, with elements like Haircut’s three-note ostinato the closest thing, and on many tracks the incessant hum of the bass takes up the low and mid frequencies.
Trench is a particular highlight, with a driving beat that gets smothered with sheets of white noise. Cymbals crash with mind-numbing intensity, bouncing off slabs of bass that distort everything in their vicinity, and a cycling cross-rhythm persists throughout the track which adds to a sense of relentlessness. Ventilator also stands out, frantic stabs, squeaks and hisses that tumble over each other in anticipation of a shrill climax.
On paper the sound palette on Scramblers is bracingly limited, drum machines pushed to their limits and bare-bones accompaniment, and in the hands of a lesser producer the record could well become irritating and tedious. But the sound design, sparse and abrasive though it is, is playful enough to keep energy and verve pulsating through the album’s brief run-time.