Manchester electronic duo Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker return four years after their last album Elemental with Wonderland, a skittish, angsty record of their trademark ADHD IDM. In between times, they’ve been keeping up the momentum for their mutant crossbreeds of dance music through their Testpressing series, two-track releases they’ve been bringing out since 2013 on Modern Love, the label home of Vatican Shadow, Andy Stott and others.
Demdike Stare’s approach to the dancefloor is always a complex one, made up of cerebral, tightly knotted references to Detroit techno, British industrial, ravey jungle, jittery dancehall, weirdo noise and malevolent horror soundtracks, with uphill climbs into more gratifying kicks and doomy, but danceable drops.
The ten-minute long “Hardnoise” is probably the standout, beginning with innocuous sounding steps, like footsteps crunching into snow, then short circuiting into splutters of static and beat-driven bursts of anxiety. Tropical birdsong chirps through the tapping rhythms, sounding increasingly panicked before a payoff arrives for those itching by this point for a hook to dance or nod along to. A minute or so later the beats have been replaced by a Heatsick-esque synth melody-line, simple and repetitive, and rounding off the track with some gleaming, glowing house.
“Curzon” is the claustrophobic album opener, speeding up into something that might be about to go fullblown Giallo horror with its ominous churchy synths before it collapses abruptly into a garbled computer-generated voice; “Animal Style” is a seizure of drum and bass, pocked with creepy whispered bits and mutated vocals in the distance; and Fridge Challenge is a squeaky, bright muckabout with bleeps and recordings of an airport tannoy.
Dense, frustrating, perplex and fun on record, having seen them live several times, their sound works best when it bleeds osmotically into strange visuals. Their longterm obsession with crate digging is still audible on Wonderland, but a symbiosis of their love of both weird sounds and visions hammers their unsettling dance music home with greater impact.