DERELICHT Artist Review : Surgeon
Many years ago, untouched by the media, a producer was working on a sound that was only known to have surfaced in the suburbs of Detroit. A new phenomenon was about to be arise in UK underground music. Techno.
Surgeon began releasing tracks as far back as 1991. Three years later, 1994 saw the first Surgeon EP released on Downwards Records. From the start, Surgeon, born as Anthony Child in 1971, was a producer who brought his own style into the production of techno. Someone who displayed immaculately an individual collection of sounds that could only be recognisable to his name. Never afraid to be experimental in his work, he released tracks that were fascinating in structure and portrayed nothing but intelligence and a deep understanding of music. His music began to impact his local scene after he studied audio, visual design in Birmingham back in 1989 and set up the now widely remembered techno event ‘House of God’ and began DJ’ing there on a regular basis. Hugely successful ‘House of God’ celebrated its 21st birthday earlier this year at the Rainbow Venues in Birmingham, hosting artists among the likes of Neil Landstrumm, Blacknecks and Ratty. He broke out into the industry with a forward facing, ‘I know what I want to hear’ attitude, fronting an unbreakable
persona that has gotten him where his is today .
The intense, emotional structure of his music implies that he is a sincere character with undeniable passion for his work; demonstrated by his massive contribution and influence on UK techno in the last two decades. As the owner of two record labels, Counter Balance and Dynamic Tension, he has both created and supplied the demand for this experimental underground music. His work could be described as somewhat intimidating amongst the standard of techno of today. It is unusual to see an artist gain such recognition through only the bare necessities of marketing and media exposure. Another prime testimony of his undisputable talent.
His journey began with his first release on Downwards Records in 1994. Downwards, still running today, is a fairly small label with only a few thousand followers. The EP consisted of 4 tracks, Atol, Argon, Move and Magnese. The tracks are similar in structure, with a heavy pounding bassline decorated with experimental synths and unusual experiential claps and snares that give his work a rugged edge sound. He continued to immerse downwards records with these intimate sounding tracks until his last release on their label in 2004. It was around that time he had doubled up with Regis, another fascinating techno producer at the time, and was releasing as the duo British Murder Boys.
Tresor was the next label to be graced with Surgeons presence. Between 1997 and 1999 he released 4 EPs and 4 remakes with the label. 1998 saw the release of Balance EP. The name balance was to suggest the idea of entwining something sounding beautiful with something brutal, in order to create equilibrium within a track. His compositions on this EP demonstrate a more abstract and conceptual approach to production, as if his tracks were all hiding a deep, personal reasoning. The track ‘Pnuma’ is a prime example of this, consisting of a melody of electronic sounds that become layered over by ferocious sounding beats and breaks, and a heavy bass that lastly appears underneath.
1997 saw him set up the first of his two labels, Dynamic Tension. With this label, he set out to promote a pure, cutting edge techno phenomenon. All the releases on here strongly demonstrate his passion for relentless intensity, providing a very conceptual sound for the listener. In his later releases he began introducing more breaks into his work. His release ‘Whos bad hands are these’ part1 and 2, DTR008/009, is a prime example of this. There are various remixes from other artists of the Bad Hands track across the EPs all posing the breaks influence in techno. Releasing through his own label allowed Surgeon to dodge irrelevant and exaggerated marketing from bigger labels, and therefore kept his work only to be admired by a niche target audience.
With his second label, Counter Balance, set up in 1999, he had different intensions. This label he used to demonstrate that techno could be found within other genres of music, and that there was an essence of other music with techno. The idea of decoding and deconstructing music, and seeing that what you are left with can be versatile across the whole music spectrum. The tracks on this label aren’t as techno heavy as his previous work and seem to embrace other genres such as in waiting for me and La real, where he brings in delicate vocals which is something that seems to be few and far between in his tracks. There aren’t many producers who have created two separate labels in order to portray one genre of music. This shows his extraordinary precision in cleverly marketing himself and his work.
Surgeons last freshly produced release was in May 2011, when he dropped ‘Breaking the Frame’ on Dynamic Tension records. In general, the tracks off the EP are clean cut, with crisp, clearer sounding artefacts than some of his heavier work. As always he demonstrates his talent for providing an unexpected, On 14th September 2014, however, he released remasters of some of his earlier EPs, known as SRX EP, and also some unreleased tracks that he produced as far back as1994. He took extra precision when transferring the data from his earliest cuts in order to keep them as unmodified from originals as possible. Surgeon always took care over keeping his music, entirely about the music, staying out of the limelight and media attention and coming out on top solely through pure talent and vigorous hard work. To create more impact with the release he commissioned Ken Meier and Joonjai Choi from NY design firm, Common Name, to design him some professional album artwork that really captured his persona with its minimalistic and classic design. The visuals alongside surgeons releases involve minimal colour and attention grabbing imagery, and are more a representation of himself and his music as appose to a marketing tool.
As you navigate though surgeons work, one thing is clear; that although his music is electronically produced he takes care over considering pure sounds that are as un-digitally modified and unique as possible. He was a producer who questioned the boundaries and deciphered how much could really be achieved with techno. This is the product of feeding a diet of industrial rock to an adolescent unknowingly drifting toward an electronic music scene.