“Industrial” is an interesting world. In the musical realm, we use it to refer to everything from Nine Inch Nails to Funker Vogt and Throbbing Gristle to Laibach. In the rest of the of the world, we use it to describe things actually related to industry: industrial-strength, industrial-size, etc. Yet, more than anything, it refers to industrial machines, the Industrial Age, factories, and giant slabs of metal and grease—powered by coal and electricity—that produce our modern world. With Motor City, Polish minimalist dub artist Dat Rayon has produced music that is truly “industrial” in that most common sense. It evokes the grit, the struggle, the machines of our modern age.
Motor City is dedicated to Detroit, Michigan—the birthplace of the American automobile (and modern Platonic ideal for urban decay). There are two types of tracks on this instrumental, near hour-long album. The first type, like album opener “Town & Country,” are dark ambient pieces that feel like explorations of deserted streets and abandoned factories. The second—and more common—are groovy, danceable dub songs like “Motor City Pt 1.” In these songs, the machines come to life, clanking and banging while electricity surges, oil sloshes, and grime gets all over everything.
The dance songs on Motor City have a glitchy, almost IDM feeling to them, so it won’t surprise the listener to learn that Dat Rayon has produced IDM before (2013’s Junkyard, also on Zoharum Records, is more in that genre). The solidity of the underlying beats on the best songs the album has to offer is more consistent with the dub genre, though. These songs definitely make the body groove, particularly when played on a system that does justice to the low bass-kick frequencies. The majority of the dub influence comes in percussion and echo effects. There are few guitars of note on the album—they appear on “Rag Nr 10” in their purest form—but extensive samples of instruments subjected to manipulation beyond the point of recognition provide a wealth of “dub-like” effects. This certainly isn’t a dubstep album; you won’t find wobbling bass or Transformers pornography here.
Album highlights include the ambient “Auto Parts,” groover “The Molten Asphalt,” and the seething “Quadratrack.” It’s not all flawless, though. While “Auto Parts” holds the dark ambient flag proudly, the other explorations of that style are less successful. And when the album ventures into more explicitly IDM areas, like on “Rag Nr 10,” it loses some of that powerful industrial car factory feeling that makes the rest of the album so strong. Dat Rayon more successfully explored that style on his previous album, so you should seek that out if you enjoy the style.
From a production standpoint, the entire album is excellent. It has massive headroom that it uses effectively with echos, reverb, and the lurking threat of machines. Kick and bass fill the bottom frequencies when they appear (this is minimalist music, after all), and the grimy clicking bits stand out from the murk without being shrill or piercing.
It’s amazing how much Motor City evokes the industrial automotive industry without feeling human at all. When it sounds like a city, it’s abandoned. When it explores a factory, it’s filled with nothing but untended, rusting robots, functional or not. This is the sort of music that the machines will listen to when we are all dead in their final days before nature cracks the asphalt and rust reduces them to decrepit hulks.
01) Town & Country
02) Motor City Pt 1
03) The Molten Asphalt
04) Auto Parts
05) Motor City Pt 2
06) Rag Nr 10
07) Belair Convertible
09) Type 79