10-20 hails from Devon, a county best known for lush, green hills, windswept moors, seaside resorts and clotted cream teas. What it’s definitely not known for is claustrophobic, dense urban darkness and grinding industrial grime even though the south west of England was the birthplace of steam power – Thomas Newcomen, who built steam powered beam engines to pump water from tin mines, was born in Dartmouth in 1664.
10-20’s self-titled debut album harks back to Newcomen’s machines in places. Both “nei” and “jjuvxszla” (all the tracks have titles that suggest 10-20’s pet moggy was walking across his laptop at the time) are underpinned by percussive loops that suggest mighty industrial machines. Around the central rhythms, a thick soup of electronic clicks, booming bass pulses and general babble coalesce. There is melody, but it is sketched and implied rather than out front.
“wdtrhjvelgrad” (“and now on Top of the Pops it’s 10-20 and a number called ‘wdtrhjvelgrad’” – doesn’t quite work, does it) is full of asynchronous beats and twisted rhythms with a simple, cracked synth line for colour, and tortured vocal samples. Best of all is “InB” which finds a rare beauty amongst the dirt. A thudding pulse, fizzing molten drips and squelching electronic tones are overlaid by a delicious minor key melody and what sounds like a distorted fairground pump organ.
This is quite a challenging work, but there is something hypnotic about it, despite its rhythmic complexities. Pertinent comparisons could be made to Pan Sonic and Autechre, but there is more of a sense of dirty fingernails and oily boiler-suits about it than white-coated technicians. It feels more akin to engineering and industry than to pure science. It’s a claustrophobic work with occasional shafts of sunlight gleaming through, but nevertheless hugely engaging. It’s certainly one of the most original electronic albums I’ve heard for a while – I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from 10-20 whoever he or she may be.
The album is available to download from March 16th.
1 milvus 6:25
2 nei 4:55
3 jjuvxszla 6:22
4 wdtrhjvelgrad 6:50
5 InB 6:20
6 arcadeagle 8:06
7 sA 6:12
8 unde 5:16