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.