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Boys Noize takes us on a timeless techno journey with ‘Mayday’ [Review]

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Alex Ridha has always strived to create a body of work that is timeless, ageless, and strictly raw. Mayday, Ridha’s first full-length Boys Noize album since 2012’s Out of the Black, elevates these values to a new echelon.

Boys Noize coyly portended Mayday with the release of “Overthrow,” a frenetically sinister blend of industrial, techno, and acid house inspirations that perfectly summates his musical essence. One of the better releases of 2016 thus far, Ridha took a major risk in opening the floodgates to Mayday with such a strong component. As the imminence of his fourth LP became increasingly apparent with the subsequent releases of “Euphoria” and “Starchild,” listeners’ expectations regarding what was to follow were reasonably steep.

Experiencing Mayday in full clarifies why Boys Noize showed no diffidence in setting his own bar so highly. It’s rare to find an album that is, by all reasonable standards, faultless. The full course of an LP demands a series of ebbs and flows, or risks stagnancy and monotony. While Mayday‘s energy is dynamic, its quality is static. Boys Noize transports listeners from Berlin’s most acrid warehouses to states of Oxytocin-inducing mysticism, traversing savory and surreptitious realms all the while.

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The chronology of Boys Noize’s fourth studio album begins in a state of cataclysm. The massive eruption of “Overthrow” is only the first bomb dropped; Ridha amplifies his sonic warfare in the titular track. “Mayday” begins with the foreboding statement, “You have nothing left but destruction,” a Dantean harbinger equivalent to “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Caustically industrial, the desolation of “Mayday” lends way to an eye in the stormy trajectory of the album. “Dynamite,” Ridha’s collaboration with prodigal producer Benga, begins with a deceptive dormancy. The melancholic foreground and wistful vocals provide only a temporary relief from Ridha’s madness before erupting into what is perhaps the most virulent burst of the album.

Dantean as the album’s initial phase may be, Mayday is not a progressive descent into the darkest depths of Alex Ridha’s imagination. While the first act of Ridha’s opus is pure pandemonium, the second act is a triad of distinctly diverse songs, laden with secrets. The blithe breaks of “Rock the Bells,” cerebral undulations of “Euphoria,” and mellifluous mysticism of “2 Live” ostensibly possess nothing in common. However, all three songs showcase Ridha’s absorptive abilities, as he builds upon attributes of the tracks’ covert collaborators. Mentioned only in the album’s liner notes, Baauer, Gesaffelstein, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs respectively lend their talents to the aforementioned tracks, and Boys Noize reaffirms his eminence as a perennial collaborator.

In contrast to the artistic assimilation of other artists’ stylistic traits in Mayday‘s second segment, “Would You Listen” and “Revolt” are authentically Alex. The corrosive, cerebral, punk-infused essence of “Would You Listen” harkens back to Boys Noize classics like  “&Down” and “What You Want.” “Revolt” is an unadulterated presentation of the serrated bass synthesis that has manifested itself as Ridha’s signature sound throughout all of his projects — equally as present in Octave Minds and Dog Blood as in his solo work.

Before venturing deeper into his roots, Boys Noize interrupts the trajectory of his album’s latter half to veer into a completely aberrant direction with “Starchild.” Ridha’s unique collaboration with Minnesotan synthpop outfit Poliça is uncharted territory for the producer. Simultaneously unrecognizable from Ridha’s usual wheelhouse, but also inseparable from his artistic fundaments, “Starchild” is harrowing, soothing, and cerebral all at once. Amidst the clastic oeuvre of Mayday, “Starchild” is its standout aria. 

After ascending to the melodic peak of his artistic catalogue, Boys Noize delves into the depths of his early inspirations. Originally released as a vinyl 12″, “Midnight” and “Los Niños” see Ridha travel back in time to the ’90s, fusing lo-fi samples, analog synths, and repetitive drum loops. Ridha abruptly disrupts his comforting homage to techno’s early days with “Hardkotzen.” Progressing from a seizure-inducing techno take on the drum solo to a surprisingly serene vocoded outro, the erratic track is equally redolent of John Bonham, Rammstein, and Dan Deacon.

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While Ridha begins his album in an alarming state of chaos, he concludes on a celebratory note. For his opus’ finale, Boys Noize is joined by Hudson Mohawke and BNR staple Spank Rock. “Birthday,” like “Starchild,” is starkly distinct from anything that Boys Noize has thus far released. HudMo’s presence is abundantly clear in the mellifluous subbass that catalyzes the song, while Spank Rock’s upbeat vocals set a fitting tone to finish the album. The song’s mantra,”Everyday I wake up it feels like my fucking birthday,” is a thorough contrast to “Mayday’s” pervasive vocal loop, “You have nothing left but destruction.”

From beginning to end, Mayday is an emotional roller-coaster, but it’s also a veritable journey. Bookended by a chaotic commencement and an optimistic denouement, Mayday presents a conflict that resolves itself through an erratic series of highs and lows. As musically dynamic as it is thematically, Mayday incorporates Alex Ridha across all points of techno’s timeline as he innovates by blending past and current trends with unique experimentations.

Boys Noize’s fourth studio album is most likely his best to date, and it almost seems incomprehensible to imagine how he will transcend its quality in future releases. However, as is proven in his progression from “Overthrow” within Mayday, nobody can predict Boys Noize’s next move except Boys Noize himself.

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