The first thing to note when discovering Dead Start Program is, on the album’s cover, a depiction of a series of switches, presumably attached to an analog synth. The image offers some idea of what to expect of the music within.
John Tejada, 20 years after the release of his debut album, has not drastically changed his methods or his sound since then, and it shows in the music. Whether it’s the breakbeats of Sleep Spindle or the slinky 303 line of The Looping Generation, there is an authenticity in Tejada’s approach to electronic music which creates a consistent, engaging experience throughout.
The album’s beginning, middle and end are signposted by more introspective tracks: Autoseek’s polyrhythmic layers are not the most danceable, nor is Loss’ 12/8 time signature or Quipu’s jittering hi-hat, but they create a cerebral atmosphere which other tracks sometimes eschew in favour of groove.
By contrast, the most intense tracks are the Gesaffelstein-esque Hypochondriac and the fast-paced All At Sea, which showcase Tejada’s techno sound. He has a knack for pacing, with the elements being introduced and developed in a natural yet purposeful way, and the chord sequences have an abstract quality to them which is most frequently heard in ’90s IDM.
Tejada’s Bandcamp page describes Dead Start Program as “a journey”, but this creates the impression of a conceptual coherence that is not there in reality. What this album is is an enjoyable collection of tracks that play to Tejada’s strengths while exploring some interesting avenues, and that’s valuable enough.