It can sound familiar: two art students join forces to create experimental music. Sturqen, who have already made a mixtape for Secret Thirteen, are a duo based in Porto, consisting of César Rodrigues and David Arantes. The act came into being in 2009. Since then, they have been gradually improving their craft, and the latest result of their monumental effort is entitled “Neophobia”.
The album was released by Ukrainian label Kvitnu in the spring of 2013, but potential listeners should not expect a colourful and flowery work. Instead, they should hear a cyclic, dark and radical compound of heavy rhythms and distorted layers.
After winning two Qwartz Awards in 2011 – for “Artist” and “Discovery” – for their remarkable “Peste”, this duo has been working hard on its music, releasing a series of outstanding albums, such as “Colera”, “Praga” and “Raia”, as well as an interesting E.P. in collaboration with label partner Kotra, entitled “Luz”. However, their ongoing improvement never seems to end.
Often compared with other acts such as Roly Porter, Emptyset, Pan Sonic or even Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman, “Neophobia” shows that these two Portuguese musicians have definitely found the way to provide listeners with all those abrasive nuances, adding, of course, their own tough and noise-esque footprint, which is based on a strictly analogue sound, high-class manipulation of tweaks and impulsive beat-machine programming.
Just a few seconds into “Toxinas”, the opening track, listeners will notice a sound hammered by aggressive kicks, radical distortion and elliptical structures, which shape the 12 songs of this surprising album. This characteristic flavour is deeply based on an instinctive use of filters and high-pitched sound repetition, which are the trademark of this duo. Track 9 “refugio” is reminiscent of such reputable UK acts like Aphex Twin or Autechre, but clearly contains some of the intense and violent Sturqen’s own personal perspective. The use of white noise in “Sukeria”, the dark-techno style in “Ingebrik” or even the noise-like personality of “Jalcove” are all examples of the diverse and overwhelming nature of this highly recommendable album.
In brief, “Neophobia” is a natural step forward in Sturqen’s career and a clear proof of the quality and clarity of their sound. The album offers a strong, distorted and raw musical storm, built on extreme percussions and techno impulses. Undeniably hardcore and visceral, partly due to this two-member act’s use of analogue machines, “Neophobia” represents an impressive and powerful blend of savage and rough experimentation.