Bedroom artists, producers and production heads always have a folder on a drive somewhere filled with things that are undeniably something, but never turned into something else. Maybe they didn’t fit with the current project, didn’t fit a mindset or were just too damned elusive to make sense even to their creator. But they were too precious to throw away. Melbourne producer Mark Barrage is no exception.
Surplus Behaviour is such a collection of offcuts, textures and fully formed features that didn’t make it onto any of Barrage’s other releases. United by a lack of vocals, or at least intelligible vocals not used a background textures, they highlight the underlying creepiness found in the rest of Barrage’s work, which on albums like Hero Or Dirt? (2005) and Delays (2008) are offset by his permanently insecure and heartbroken, but very relatable, persona. With the romance and navel gazing gone, you hear the bleakness in the music, and it’s alienating, cold and compelling.
Surplus Behaviour is the logical progression from 2010’s Rubicon Drive EP, in which Mark started removing his humanity by judicious use of vocoder. Surplus Behaviour is now the sound of machines designed to automatically produce ghost beats. Distorted organs add warmth to the glitch, and emulated analogue washes try to numb the pain of the pounding, distorted irregular beats. The synths are still adding leads and counterpoints, but with no human hand left to guide them, they’re running on their own logic.
In the aftermath of some terrible epidemic or purge, the machines continue to make haunted soundscapes, but there’s no voices left to provide counterpoint to their atmospheric bleakness. This is the soundtrack to millions of CCTV cameras that continue to monitor public spaces, but without the complicated and messy emotions of people contaminating the shots.
– Jason Allen