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What used to be called industrial music by those on the radical fringes of ’80s post-punk is surfacing again in the techno sphere and beyond. French producer Low Jack (aka Philippe Hallais) – who has been praised by some of today’s most prominent labels (Modern Love, L.I.E.S., The Trilogy Tapes) – now seizes control over this rich heritage. His goal is not to take it back to basics and produce something you’ve already heard, but to take classic industrial aesthetics to the next level, extending the trance experience using raw, sharp and rough sounds.
Besides being a dedicated hip-hop and house crate-digger, he’s also a convivial, fun-loving gourmet, as eager to taste a new organic wine as he is to discover lost musical treasures. (Born in Honduras and raised in Brittany, between Nantes and Rennes, Hallais was bound to become a French cheese specialist – a passion he never gave up.) Philippe approaches sound like an alchemist, aligning the earth and the ether, mixing the origin with the destination. The transformation process is almost more important to him than the final result; he dissects, twists and prunes sonic material into patterns he repeats like mantras.
Low Jack has always been about crossing boundaries, challenging trends and appearing where you wouldn’t expect – assume what he is without paying attention to what he should be. This is exactly what his Garifuna Variations (L.I.E.S., 2014) illustrates as it emulates the music of an insular tribe of the Caribbean. This is also what distinguishes Editions Gravats, the label he founded with comrade Jean Carval; its first three records – Gravats, Zaltan and Black Zone Myth Chant – thwart the technoise traps.
Low Jack has earned a reputation for his uniqueness, keeping one foot in club culture and the other in abstract experimentation. On one side, you’ll find the influence of Bunker Records’ acid-industrial years, sinusoidal blasts by Pan Sonic, Cristian Vogel’s shifted techno, and esoteric grooves by George Issakadis, plus Dancemania records and assorted other ghetto house, East Coast hip-hop, and funk leftovers. On the other, bullet-shaped noise music, ethno-shamanic trance, punk improvisations, post-industrial ambient, drone and power electronics. You’re bound to hear anything but tiny and conventional club music, which you can sometimes catch in his sets but which he’s quite unable to produce by himself.
His own tracks are typically built around a personal rhythmic frenzy, mostly designed for introspective and deep listening, drawing their magic from the master’s deep Central American roots. Obsessive rhythms, the rumbling sounds of an aircraft, venomous and helicoid frequencies: Low Jack’s music seems to have less to do with techno than a primitive and organic trance, where Afro-Cuban polyrhythms replace the metronomic beat.