Duran Duran Duran, ‘Duran’

Posted by on October 13, 2017

duran duran duran

Power Vacuum, 7.25.2017

Philadelphia native Ed Flis has been making severely damaged, electro-shocked music as Duran Duran Duran for nearly two decade now. When I moved to New Jersey to attend college at Rutgers University in 2002, and started going to breakcore shows at people’s houses, he was one of the first artists that really had me fixated on that scene. His work at that time was heavily inspired by Shizuo and other DHR and Ambush artists, mashing up noisy breakbeats with punk attitude, but his tracks packed in a wider range of samples (everything from gangsta rap to Slayer guitar riffs to Ace Of Base hits) and generally seemed more concentrated and chaotic — yet also more tightly focused and somehow even danceable. Not to mention faster, more distorted, and just more out there overall — the suggestive artwork on his long-delayed debut album Very Pleasure (2005) on Jason Forrest’s Cock Rock Disco label comes to mind.

After the album was finally out, Ed’s music shifted significantly. He stopped using tracker programs and upgraded to a more high-tech setup. It slowed down somewhat, sometimes losing the fixation on breakbeats or cheeky samples. Instead of cracked-out jungle, his main reference points seemed to be Miami booty bass, Detroit electro/ghettotech, and good old fashioned gabber. Planet Mu released his “Face Blast” single in 2007, and a few other one-offs and split singles appeared (one of which included a hard house edit of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut”) but the second album, Over Hard, didn’t arrive until 2010. At some point, he moved to Berlin and eventually started working for Ableton. Aside from a few compilation tracks and a 2014 EP on Tigerbeat 6 (Rejectro), DDD hasn’t been heard from too much until this year. UK label Power Vacuum kicked off 2017 with the Vectors 3 compilation, which included DDD’s “Drap Jam” along with other killer tracks from Pan Daijing and Beau Wanzer. Now the label is releasing Ed’s third album, which is simply titled Duran.

From the start, this seems to be his most focused work to date. The tracks pay more attention to space, and many of the sounds and subtle manipulations stand out more. Still heavy and propulsive, not to mention nervy and glitchy, they’re more fine-tuned to work on the dancefloor if nothing else. Though this doesn’t mean it sounds clinical; the tracks hit on an energetic rush and keep building. “Pearls and Strawberries” starts out with a heavy bonking beat which gets pumped up with acid squiggles, and is constantly tripped up by stutters and sheets of white noise. Plus there’s a wailing noise in the background that sounds like a pterodactyl or something, constantly keeping the listener alert. “Pryor Acid” may be self-explanatory — it starts off with a dazed sample from Richard, then the beat kicks in and it turns into a mutated hard electro track, with more sliced-and-diced samples flying around the high-speed pop-and-lock beat. Artists like Autechre have always been heavily influenced by old-school hip-hop and electro, and while this would never be mistaken for Afrika Bambaataa, it still seems a bit more in the spirit of the old school more than most IDM. More the type that someone could actually breakdance to.

“Drug Life” is the album’s centerpiece, and maybe the most club-friendly track on the album. It seems poised, determined, and ready to pounce, and then it does, adding some tricky breaks here and there and just keeping up its momentum. “Sexus” is faster and closer to intelligent drum’n’bass, but with sporadic beats which seem bunched together in giant clumps. They drill holes in the floor while metallic rivets fly around counterclockwise. “Street Trash” is slower and more low-down, with a squishy beats at a steady tempo, constantly surrounded by a growling burst of bass. A snatch of a flute trill gives the track a hint of lounginess, but this is offset by all the strange shrieking sounds and shadowy echo inhabiting the empty space.

Like Over Hard, Duran saves the most intense tracks for the very end. “Untitled” is even more of a short-circuited b-boy battle track than “Pryor Acid,” with an increasingly intense gabber beat doused in glitches and radioactive scratching. “Marathon Man” is where it all piles on and gets overloaded. There’s alarmed horns which sound like a freight truck warning you that you’re about to get run over, and the breaks and noise manipulations make you feel like it’s actually happening. Altogether, the album is another massive slab of finely controlled madness from one of the best in the business.