Tel-Aviv exports and protagonists of the scene Dori Sadovnik and Niv Arzi have returned to Phantasy Sound for a second time running following the thunderous success of their debut EP, ‘Sipoor’, on Erol Alkan’s label back in mid-2018 – a detonating triad of dance-floor bombs that shattered the club circuit with support from big name artists like Call Super and Fort Romeau and a generous response from the general public too. ‘Sipoor’ was a liberally-applied palette of analog and electronica, and had no shortage in admirers trailing lovingly behind the release. As the page turned into 2019, Red Axes were invited back for another roll of the dice, and ‘Sound Test’ is a little of the same; it runs through the same vein of addictive creativity, but burns with a totally different aura from its predecessor. This release seems to be more of what the pair do best – audaciously exploring the coarser end of electronic music, but still encapsulating the threads of kinetic, powerful sound that they’re known for.
The eponymous icebreaker ‘Sound Test’ is the type of track that could easily find itself taking on a recurring role as the opener for a headline act in a packed-out club. Brooding and an ideal precursor to a set with its dryly-crowed countdown that fastens around the breakdown, when the reverbed female voice drawls ‘zero’, it briefly relinquishes and then seizes back its suspense – fortunately without being sensationalist. It adopts minimalism to the best of its abilities, with a dribble of synths and percussion concealing a groaning and subtle bass towards the end. You can just imagine the mixing and chopping potential for this one.
The following track on the A-side, ‘Shabak Shalom’, slices high-pitched drones and deforms them against some heavy drums, kicking back against the flecks of unsettling spaceship hums and brassy airstrikes battling through the slipstream. Shabak Shalom is unfaltering and tireless – the perfect late-night or early-morning selection that would make a happy and informal home in the murkiest of warehouses, the kind of ones lit up only by a single convulsing strobe and an erratic crowd. Nobody would know what time it was, but this produce from Red Axes would likely have not even one person checking their watches to see whether they should be going home just yet. The track shifts swiftly between its stages and progressions; one might wish that they would have extended this track to double the length so that we could soak a little while longer in each juncture.
A torrent of bass laces the final track, ‘Kookoo Papa’, to welcome effect. A mass of acidic techno scrambles up onto the scaffold before a smartly executed siren escalates incessantly like a fly that just won’t stop circulating until you’re dizzy from the sound. But like an exhilarating roller-coaster ride, the giddiness is mischievous, and dare we even suggest it… light-hearted? There’s a twinkle of playfulness within the heavy, white-knuckle pulses, and even a slight nod to the sound of other Phantasy Sound signees like Daniel Avery with its sleep-deprivation wails of techno, penetrating rhythms and sharp-tongued embellishments.
The ‘Sound Test’ EP is a fantastic little portfolio of the creative potentials of dance music. Red Axes do well to not stray too far from their signature sound, and you can clearly hear their home-grown influences flowing freely throughout the three-tracker. With each track ripe for the dance-floor in their own unique ways, this collection is a lavish little addition to anyone’s record bag. Acquainted listeners of the duo will recognise the eccentric, patented formula that the twosome have concocted and refined over their recent releases that identify their productions as exclusively their own, but the recipe itself is still a closely guarded secret. We can only continue to watch them engineer these kind of nuanced arrangements from afar, and then gobble up the meal when it’s dished up. Another serving, please.
Red Axes’ ‘Sound Test’ was released on Phantasy Sound on 25th January 2019.
Review by Emily Rose Howard