It was possible that the Black Dog Mark 2 would simply take up where the original line-up left off but ‘Vexations’ — the third album from the new members — proves once again that there’s no danger of The Black Dog ever standing still. There is some reference to their last two albums ‘Silenced’ and ‘Radio Scarecrow’ on the deep electronic textures of ‘Biomantric L-if-E’ but that’s where any similarities end. ‘You’re Only SQL’ could be the accompanying music as the hero chases the villain up a skyscraper in a Hollywood blockbuster — its chilling strings and clipped breaks adding to the sense of drama. Meanwhile, ‘Northern Electronic Soul Parts 1-3’ pursues a different agenda with their stripped back rhythms, subtle bass pulses and acid gurgles providing a considered take on minimal techno. That’s not to suggest that the dogs have mellowed out. ‘Tunnels Ov Set’ is a bleak serving of bassy techno while the muttered vocals, cut-up rhythms and stop-start nature of ‘Skin Clock’ and ‘Dada Mindstab’ are closer in ideology than sound to the ‘Bytes’ and ‘Spanners’-era Black Dog. ‘Cctv Nation’, contrastingly, is an epic, Kenny Larkin-inspired Detroit techno anthem. And that they manage to use the whole thing as an opportunity to put their bugbears about modern society under their own spotlight proves yet again that there’s more bite to their bark than expected.
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