Catalogue Number: B20_10
Release Date: November 19th 2012 (digital, deluxe USB stick version)
Purchase links are below – click to jump
Production Unit (aka Dave Donnelly)’s album was supposed to be on tape. It was composed as two sides of
blended music comprised of individual tracks with strong common themes, but the crisp highs and deep lows
caused label boss TVO to put his foot down, demanding a digital-only format that allowed the precision to
This mirrors the way the album itself evolved organically: “Each track is a remix of its preceding track,”
writes the artist. “I was trying to figure out a way of building a narrative, and of glueing the whole thing
together sonically, and this seemed liked the perfect way to do both. As a result I think it flows, and that was
important: not just to curate a collection of tracks but to chart the progression of an idea.”
That idea is explained by the track titles of each side: ‘There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System’, evoking
notions of learning one’s craft and understanding a pattern; ‘There Is No Grid’, suggesting that in order to
step outside the system one must first know it, much as an abstract painter studies form before depicting
expressionist ideals. Sonically there’s a touch more bombast in the first half, a sense of surety that the latter
portion lacks as it melts into unquantised, detuned sonics.
The original self-imposed remit was a melding of the squashed and degraded hip hop of Req with the clean
jitters of Mark Fell, but “I was quickly also haunted by spectres of Workshop records, Boards of Canada and
Coil. I’m happy nowadays for a remit to slip like that; what’s important is that the sound of me comes out,
regardless of whether it tallies with an artificial idea I might have had at some point, let alone an idea of my
music that someone else has. There’s no point in tying yourself in knots over constructs.”
Fans of the austere bleepy techno of Production Unit’s prior release, the well-received ‘ICU Tracks’ on
Broken20, will do well to take heed of this new-found bravado, but Donnelly is unapologetic: “I don’t own
anybody’s ears and nobody owns my brain.” Played and charted by the likes of The Black Dog, Shifted, Paul
Woolford, The Wire Magazine and Cassegrain, it found Donnelly a new audience that may be surprised by
the bedraggled click-hop of his latest efforts.
After twin opening low-slung salvos, ‘Third Step’ is an undoubted early highlight. Combining slow thumping
4/4s at sub-105bpm with stuttered samples and the first hint of the glacial synths that adorn the rest of the
work, it’s a statement of intent. Later, the sparse and lumpen hip hop swagger of ‘The Next Ish’ collapses
into woozy sunburst chords, out of breath vocal snatches and picked melodies from a lost surf betamax. The
deeply redemptive, pastoral organs of ‘Ishoos’ draw matters to a gentle close.
In the second half, the first suggestions of reality-collapsing occultism feed into the bubbling echo chamber
industrial of ‘No Grid For Sure’, before more hazy chords drawl over a meandering square wave in slow
burner ‘Nothing Is Sure’. Penultimate track ‘Nothing Is True’ depicts a headblown ritualism, drawing together
multiple strands from the preceding ten tracks into an incantation for a cleansed, burnished tomorrow,
before the final tracks links back to the four counted steps from the album’s opening and reduces them to a
repeated “one, one, one”.
‘There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System’ is a genuine attempt to provoke dialogue with the listener and
portray the growth of an idea and an artist in its 60-odd minutes, and as such is an unqualified success.
Mature, playful and studied, it’s the culmination of Production Unit’s career to this point.
‘There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System’ will be released digitally and in a highly limited collector’s edition
featuring custom USB drive, art prints, trinkets and download codes for extensive exclusive content.
A very strong album-length offering from Production Unit, and without doubt Broken20’s most substantial and attention-grabbing release to date. The exquisitely icy ‘Further Uncounted Steps’ comes over like the missing link between Autechre and the Tri Angle roster, ‘Third Step”s snaking house groove brings Shake to mind, while ‘The Next Step”s rasping vocal samples and low-riding rhythm make the debt to hip-hop more explicit, and ‘The Next Ish’ is orientalist R&B with a hint of Coil’s MDMA mysticism, rendered in vivid technicolour. We’re particularly taken with the rat-tatting techno drama of ‘No Grid Perhaps’ and the dubbed-out ‘No Grid For Sure’, which feels like a synthesis of Mark Fell’s recent Sensate Focus gear and vintage Chain Reaction. It’s really refreshing to hear an album this open and expansive but still coherent and considered – listening to the continuous mixed version of the album (available to download in two parts), you realise just how precise and uncompromising P.U.’s vision is.
….It’s an amazing piece of work that manages to maintain a haunting feel through every second of its running time and has the hallmarks of a classic.
Like its acclaimed predecessor ICU Tracks, Dave Donnelly aka Production Unit’s latest work There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System puts heavy emphasis on concept and coherence. This time however, the Glaswegian producer abandons the bleak, skeletal techno that characterized the last album in favor of an unexpected turn towards withdrawn, glacial hip hop. The piece is composed of two parts that both reflect on the idea of being forced to operate within the confines of a predetermined structure, and each new track is conceived as a remix of its preceding one, taking up recognizable elements of its precursor to mess around with and manipulate – an ambitious concept that works out marvelously. With its sparse beats and gritty synth pads, second track “Further Uncounted Steps” thereby sets the tone for the whole, truly fascinating operation
– No Fear Of Pop
…this could be a way of looking at the interconnectedness of everything you have loved over the last 20-30 years. Your Public Enemy records sit alongside your Coil records which in turn sit beside your collections of Planet E, Mo Wax and Metalheadz 12s; the link is you.
Over the course of an hour the album unfolds into a wide, open landscape. Each track is remixed from the preceding track in a kind of Chinese whispers of styles, tones, sounds and textures that takes in slo mo techno, ambient glitches, hip hop and more. It really needs to be heard to see how well it all fits together.