FACT mix 349: Silent Servant
Incredible selection of black-hearted, dead-eyed, pedal-to-the-floor “mutant music” from the Sandwell District graduate.
FACT mix is a black-hearted, dead-eyed, pedal-to-the-floor session from Silent Servant.
Recorded to mark the recent release of his debut album, Negative Fascination, on Hospital Productions, the mix focusses on propulsive darkwave and dubbed-out post-punk, placing tracks by contemporary acts including Led Er Est, Haul and The KVB alongside cult classics and cassette obscurities from the likes of Modern Art, No More and Snowy Red. Like Negative Fascination, it’s pure of purpose and entirely successful in its aims.
Silent Servant is the solo project of Juan Mendez, the California native who first made his name in techno circles in the 90s with his production work under the name Jasper, and with his co-founding of the highly respected Cytrax label. It was during this time that Mendez befriended Karl O’Connor, aka Regis, beginning a creative alliance that has lasted to this day and led to all kinds of interesting outcomes.
The two artists, along with Dave ‘Function’ Sumner and Peter ‘Female’ Sutton, turned Sandwell District from a functional 12″ series into highly influential artistic collective and record label, encouraged in no small part by Mendez’s design and visual nous, and culminating in the release of a widely praised album, Feed-Forward (2010), before they decided to call it a day earlier this year. Mendez also became intimately involved with the running of O’Connor’s long-running Downwards label, bringing young American bands like Pink Playground, Dva Damas and Deathday into the fold (check the recently released So Click Heels compilation for a fine snapshot). One such act was Tropic of Cancer, the brainchild of Mendez’s wife, Camella Lobo, to whose first three releases (‘The Dull Age’ and ‘Be Brave’ on Downwards, The Sorrow Of Two Blooms EP on Blackest Ever Black) he contributed significantly.
Of course, it’s as a techno producer and DJ that Mendez remains best known. His 12″ productions as Silent Servant elegantly combine the industrial force of classic Downwards with the the dub-wise spaciousness of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction and the skippy minimalism of Cytrax. For Negative Fascination, he has widened his palette, or rather wholeheartedly pursued directions that in the past his work has only hinted at. In simple terms, the LP finds Mendez reconciling his interest in cutting edge dance music and pin-sharp, club-ready sound design with an even deeper, more instinctive affection for 80s DIY, minimal wave and the like, and this reconciliation yields some extraordinary results: take ‘Moral Divide (Endless)’, where a typical 4/4 kick is rejected in favour of a scuffed, skeletal drum machine tattoo that Suicide might reject on grounds of it being too raw, then shrouded in strings that could teach Detroit a thing or two about grandeur and moodiness, or the way ‘The Strange Attractor”s EBM-style tom-hits ricochet wildly against the taut techno grid that encloses them, or ‘Temptation & Desire”s foregrounding of shoegazey guitar noise. It’s undoubtedly one of the year’s finest full-lengths.
“Even though it’s only seven tracks, Negative Fascination is very representative of what I wanted to achieve,” Mendez told FACT in a recent in-depth interview. “There’s a little bit of Cabs, there’s a little bit of DAF, there’s a little bit of early Basic Channel and early Downwards, there’s some weird post-punk, upbeat, almost Joy Division-like sounds. It was just this weird mutation in my head.”
The Silent Servant FACT mix sheds further light on, and traces the origins of, this “weird mutation”. It was recorded live, with turntables, CDJs and mixer with effects. Stream or download it via the Soundcloud player below.
Karl And The Curbcrawlers (Karl O’Connor) – Day In Day Out – Exist
Haul – New Sewn Pocket – YTA Records
DAF – Verlieb Dich In Mich – Virgin Records
Led Er Est – Opto Five – Captured Tracks
Modern Art – Hello/Goodbye – Domestica
The KVB – Hands – Clan Destine Records
Cabaret Voltaire – A Touch Of Evil (Reprise) – Rough Trade
Snowy Red – Sinkin’ Down – Dirty Dance
No More – Suicide Commando – Wishbone Records
Silent Servant – Temptation & Desire – Hospital Productions
Public Information Film (Karl O’Connor) – Here And Now (English
Version) – Downwards
In Aeternam Vale – Dust Under Brightness – Minimal Wave
Pye Corner Audio – Electronic Rhythm Number Three – Type Records
Hard Corps – Dirty (J.Rocc Edit) – Stones Throw / Minimal Wave
Silent Servant – Invocation Of Lust (Extended 12″ Mix) – Hospital Productions
Diseño Corbusier – Golpe De Amistad – Strut 2012 / Auxilio De Cientos 1986