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Black Dog Productions
Bytes and Spanners Bundle
Warp Records
Release Date
August 4, 2023


The Artificial Intelligence series was initially described as post-rave “electronic listening music” for the comedown after the club. Bytes undoubtedly fits the bill as the series’ third instalment originally released in 1993, taking you to worlds far beyond the dancefloor. An active listen will reveal this record is teeming with life and hidden treasures, between intricately woven beats that could still light up the venue. Here, The Black Dog are fragmented across various solo aliases, yet come together for a record that fits seamlessly, with forward-thinking expressions that could only be attributed to the trio.

Plaid opens with a darkly moving bassline that snakes underneath the rattling percussion and upward synth organ spirals of ‘Object Orient’, embarking on a journey through constantly reorienting asymmetrical progressions. Those heavy low frequencies were a signature of Warp’s early output, but Bytes moves further left of field from the label’s bleep techno club anthems: Ed Handley provides a more experimental reinterpretation of hip hop beats with slippery melodies and optimistic flashes on ‘Caz’, while Ken Downie treks the pixelated landscapes of the album’s artwork with ‘The Clan (Mongol Hordes)’, marching along to walls of imposing brass synths and gentle, glistening arpeggios that unfold in cinematic layers.

Bytes rarely falls into a predictable pattern. There are tracks with fractured, almost proto-footwork senses of rhythm that always keep you guessing, bustling landslides of beats are paired with gliding whistles and cavernous reverberance, and a break from melody and harmony altogether on ‘Fight The Hits’ with slamming concrete percussion. Amidst more abstract, repitched vocal shimmers, ‘3/4 Heart’ features some of the only speech on the album: “We must search the universe” conveys the endlessly explorative nature of Bytes in words, but only after an hour of wordlessly evocative productions that have created a far reaching musical landscape of their own.


Ken Downie, Ed Handley, and Andy Turner split their talents across numerous solo aliases on the trio’s previous Warp album Bytes; their 1995 album Spanners saw them recombine into a macrocosm of constantly shifting, expert electronic creations. The Black Dog were not ones for interviews during the 90s, preferring to let the personality embedded in the music speak for itself. Not a hard feat at all when the productions of Spanners are bursting at the seams with variety and idiosyncrasy.

While the markers of a wide musical spectrum appear across the album, (the filtered synth stabs of acid, the propulsive four to the floor of house and techno, glimpses of vocal samples and raring horns), The Black Dog operate entirely outside of genre. The gigantic, ever morphing centrepiece of the album’s first leg ‘Psil-cosyin’ is a sparking, molten cut seesawing in all different directions between dance and abstract soundscape. Its clangs of cowbells and siren-like wind instruments are perfectly at home with intersecting acid synth lines and technoid rhythms, creating a verdant and vibrant sonic playground.

Spectral layers fold over each other on ‘Raxmus’, rained upon by a heavy downtempo rhythm, while sounds like paint splatters add colour in every corner. The amorphous ‘Bolt’ interludes screw Spanners’ multifarious tracks together, fastening playful explorations with an overflowing musical toolbox. Or perhaps they unscrew: the labyrinth of digital harpsichord plucks and swinging rhythms on ‘Barbola Work’ traverses left turns, and deconstructs completely in the following ‘Bolt2’. After that, we find blacksmith beats blowing steam, rubbery elastic synths and complex rhythmic patterns, and elegant glitters of harp plucks in the album’s closing moments. All this comes together to form a maximalist peak in dance music and electronica, one that has been untouched in the thirty years since.

Black Dog Productions

Warp Records

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