Comprising one half of shadowy Swedish techno duo SHXCXCHCXSH, SSTROM first surfaced back in 2016 with his acclaimed debut 12” EP ‘Fyren’ on Semantica Records, which saw him crafting four tracks of distinctly lush and aquatic-sounding techno. Two years on, SSTROM describes this follow-up 12” ‘Vitriol’ on the relatively new Rosten label as being “more emotionally loaded” than its predecessor.
If anything, there’s certainly a slightly heavier and harder feel to these four distinctly introverted tracks, which place an emphasis on lulling repetitive grooves and constantly cycling layers more than anything else. While opening title track ‘Vitriol’ places the sort of muted kickdrum that’s the signature of minimal techno at the heart of its undercarriage, it emerges from eerie jittering synth loops and monotonous bass throbs before building itself up into a dense web of hypnotically urgent arpeggios that’s positively maximal in its textural layers, the clenched fist aspects of the harsh industrial snares offset by a cold prettiness that you wouldn’t normally associate with the more austere end of the techno spectrum.
‘Sienna’ carries more of a ghostly post-Detroit feel as lush ambient pads shimmer against monotonously throbbing 4/4 kicks and filtered synths, dark tribal elements playing around the edges during the track’s second half as the drum grooves tighten up against juddering, dubbed-out effects. Elsewhere, ‘Umbra’ drops the tension down a few notches as melodic notes ripple out against twinkling bell-like tones and abrasive scraping techno rhythms, the delay-treated melodies spiralling around each other in mesmerising layers as dark analogue bass synths worm their way into the foreground.
Finally, ‘Ockra’ pushes things back towards the centre of the dancefloor as the beats interlock into the closest thing to a jacking groove here against darkly robotic bass ripples, glimmers of jittery synths and lithe, skipping hi-hats, closing this EP with what’s easily its most extroverted excursion. Pared-down yet emotionally florid music that’s well worth checking out.