Album Review: X-Altera – X-Altera

Tadd Mullinix returns under a significantly less hip hop guise as X-Altera, with his eponymous debut album. The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight takes a listen to an accomplished long-player.

Those who know the leftfield hip hop noodlings of Dabrye will already be familiar with the work of Tadd Mullinix. His most recent album under the pseudonym came at the tail-end of 2017, when Ghostly International released Three/Three, his first Dabrye album in 11 years. However, that isn’t to say that Mullinix has been resting on his laurels. Rather, he has been busying himself in the studio, developing tracks for a release under a never-before-seen alias; X-Altera.

The LP, released on June 15th (again on Ghostly) sees Mullinix heralding a hybrid sound that marries together the jungle breakbeats he once explored as SK-1, with his Detroit techno leaningsI specifically remember hearing Black Sound and Call da Police on Bong-Ra‘s Junglist compilation, both of which were recorded alongside Soundmurderer. It was my first exposure to the material produced under his SK-1 pseudonym and I loved it. Given that Tadd heralds from Michigan, it comes as no surprise that he feels an affinity with the techno sound. Not only that, but his JTC (James T. Cotton) alias is a vehicle through which to explore a more acid and techno influenced approach to production. Bringing the two together seems to make perfect sense, then.

X-Altera, in general, will be a delight for those who grew up listening to Warp, Planet-Mu, and R&S, given that it harks back to the breakbeat-techno vibes that the braindance scene was purveying back in the late 90s and early 00s. Fans of Future Beat Alliance‘s early records, DMX Krew, the dub-techno of Thule Records, and many others besides, will be more than at home with the X-Altera‘s sound. The track names also proffer a nod toward the science fiction-esque nomenclature associated with earlier tracks of the same oeuvre, with Holotyd Neo-Optika and Parallel Rites (Kepler-452b) illustrating this point perfectly.

Compound Extraprotus, the first track on the LP, sets the stalls out for what is to come with a dark and stormy, rave-flecked production. Archetypal hoover sounds adorn the mix, as a heavily treated percussion swaggers aggressively around the track. We are instructed by a vocal snippet to ‘move it’ which, at this early stage, it is already difficult to disobey. The tropes attributed to early classics are present throughout and pop up again later on in the album. Pasco Richey Tiger is one such track that evidences this, the opening sample behaving retrospectively, curiously reminding me of the transition between Newcleus Jam On Revenge (The Wikki Wikki Song) and 2 Player Extreme Possibilities (Wagon Christ Remix) in Coldcut’s 70 Minutes of Madness Journeys by DJ mix.

Credit – Brett Carlson

Check Out the Bass allows for Mullinix‘ jungle influences take centre stage as ragga comes hurtling toward your eardrums at a neck-snapping speed, snare-rushes aplenty following close behind, bringing with them all manner of warped time-stretches and deftly orchestrated pads, giving the track a truly authentic feel.

The braindance-y qualities of the album become apparent as we pass the mid-juncture. Holotyd Neo-Optika is a beatless masterpiece which acts as a natural breathing point for the listener, allowing thoughts to be gathered after the futuristic breakbeat of In My Life and Impossible‘s twisted top-end workout. Shoreline (Can’t Understand) features a real tip-of-the-tongue lead synth, and a snarling bassline, referencing early tracks like Good Cop Bad Cop‘s speed garage classic, Blatant, as the percussion takes on a more garage swing.

Entry has an almost mystical eastern charm to it, thanks to the exotic, arpeggiating lead, which segues us into the penultimate track, the breakbeat monster that is Passivity Field. The production has an ethereal quality which sees it acting almost as some sort of preparatory ritual, as X-Altera evokes the spirit of 808 State‘s Pacific State on the dreamy album closer, Link Stratum Of Archipelagos.

It is fair to say that Tadd‘s new X-Altera guise has produced a series of compositions characteristic of a dextrous, consummate artist who draws on their own experiences. I, for one, welcome the new direction that Mullinix has taken his production in, and I look forward to hearing more from this diverse artist. You can stream the album in full, below. If you like it, make sure you support the release and grab yourself a copy, here.

Author: Ste Knight

Editor at The Waveform Transmitter. Lover of acid basslines, cavernous kick drums, and dark rooms. Cut his teeth to Surgeon's blistering techno assault at T-Funkshun in Liverpool and hasn't stopped for breath since.

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