So much electronic music is created FOR clubbing, but with Physical Gabe Gurnsey has created an aural narrative ABOUT clubbing, namely the late night moments around the club – driving the dark streets, the fleeting characters meandering about and the immersive sense of foreboding.
After 13 years of committing sonic assault with the no-wave techno excursions of Factory Floor, he opts for a stripped-back, warmer sound focusing on vocals and deep, electro-pop hooks. Hidden within the synth squelches, the dark menace of Factory Floor can still be heard but all-in-all Physical is a much more human affair.
12 months, starting in 2017, of polishing initial demos, saw Gurnsey condense a new sound that combines Balearic synth pop with the proto-house 80s period where militant funk, Chicago house and post-punk synth pop were all vying for space on the dancefloor.
‘You Can’ epitomises this sound as a slice of machine funk and death disco basslines with a danceable but detached cool. The echoed vocal is also detached. Throughout the album, Gurnsey positions himself as separate to the action. The line “You can dance, while I get high,” explains his detachment from the dancefloor.
Taking his idea of creating a sound feeling untouchable in the passenger seat of a car as the night unfolds, Physical travels at a panoramic, metronomic tempo with many of the sounds whizzing out the speakers and into the distance as if you are passing them by.
‘The Last Channel’ is a sound document to the spilling out of the club by bleary-eyed night owls and the taxi journey home.
Gurnsey’s penchant for the experimental rears its head on ‘Sweet Heat’ that recalls a sense of unease from his time in L.A. A techno-jazz journey, underpinned by dub echoes, created with the help of New York saxophonist Peter Gordon, it shows how far Gurnsey can push the limits without losing the overall feel of his new sound.
As it journeys through myriad genre tropes Physical maintains its position as a complete work, that never loses sight of its vision. At times it does suffer its own restrictions, not letting the ideas unravel to their full potential, but it could also be argued that this would diminish Gurnsey’s robo-funk creations.
Veering to far from this template could ruin the impact of the pop slickness of tracks like ‘New Kind’ which is an almost camp work of mutant disco. When the pop hooks break through Gurnsey has created something far more accessible that anything on his previous work.
Physical is a wild, pulsating listen that works on so many levels inside the club and outside looking in.
Physical is released on 3rd August through Phantasy.