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AAA Music | 22 September 2020

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South Central celebrate forthcoming debut album with free mix!

| On 29, Mar 2011





Chances are you’ve encountered South Central by now. The pair, Brighton noise manipulators Rob and Keith, have been increasingly in demand as a live draw over the past year, opening for Pendulum and The Prodigy across the globe, DJing to Rage Against The Machine’s Finsbury Park crowd, spinning at Mixmag parties and wrapping things up after Iron Maiden’s Sonisphere set.

If those bookings sound a little disparate, they make perfect sense in South Central’s world. The duo are, after all, pretty much the only true rave/rock crossover act going, a band that blend elements of both seamlessly and retain an unmatched knack at riling up crowds from both camps.

Their show, if you’ve not had your face melted by it before, is a masterpiece of digital distortion and technical virtuosity, a high-volume, sine wave-bending mind boggle that sees songs sped up, slowed down, mashed into barely discernable pieces and then reconstructed for the climax. The pair pluck endless samples from their hard drive while pushing a series of (often homemade) synths, pedals and keys to their absolute limit in a bid to wring the venues’ collective serotonin dry.

Their 2009 collection of EPs and tracks ‘The Owl Of Minerva, has become a bit of a cult classic, its jackhammer beats, swirling synths and titanic guitars (not to mention the cover of Josh Wink’s ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’ and their take on The Fall ‘Nothing Can Go Wrong’) cementing its status as a key milestone in the evolutionary journey of dance. And of course they’ve been known to do the odd remix. KlaxonsMetronomyThe MaccabeesThe Prodigy and A Place To Bury Strangers are just some of the acts that have undergone the South Central surgeon’s knife.

And now the perfectionist pair have finally reached a stage with their debut album proper where they can stop tweaking and push it out for the world. They’ve put down the Moogs and stepped away from the console and handed over the finished version of ‘Society Of The Spectacle’. It wasn’t easy. “We’re control freaks,” Rob admits, “we didn’t want to bang something out. It needed to be the right album. It needed to feel like art”. And so while labels were hammering at their studio door, the two laboured for longer than your average band to make sure everything was just right. And what do you know, it paid off.

‘Society Of The Spectacle’ is a spectacular piece of work. Soaking up everything that’s gone on musically in the last half decade, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from the pair. Enormous drums pummel down relentlessly alongside ghost-in-the-machine synths – it’s frantic and frenetic and unlike any other dance – or rock – record you’ll hear this year.

It’s the product of hours and hours of honing and meticulous tweaking in their Brighton lair, an EQ HQ bursting at the seams with synths, samplers and random shit they’ve picked up on their travels. Guitars, bass, live drums, electronic drums, Moogs, Hammonds, a pedal called Rob Everything (“you get the sound you want into that and BOOSH”), compressors, Japanese gadgets – you name it, and South Central have not only used it but twisted it out of shape to fit their own vision. “We have a storage room that’s loony” Rob laughs, “It stinks of wires. That stuff’s what we spend all our money on”.

Gary Numan and A Place To Bury Strangers’ Oliver Ackerman both feature (on ‘Crawl and The Moth’ respectively) on the album as guests. The former is reminiscent of classic ‘Are Friends Electric?’ Numan (albeit filtered through some handmade effects pedal and South Central’s demented imaginations) while the latter is the kind of droning noisemongery APTBS do so well.

“Shoegaze was a massive influence, on the second half of the album especially,” Keith admits. The making of ‘Society Of The Spectacle’ saw the pair soak up noises from all over the place, from Noisia’s berserk drum n’ bass to “the atmospherics of The Chemical Brothers’ new record”. And of course, there’s more than a few obscure cultural references and philosophical themes.

The title itself is lifted from 60’s Situationist Guy Debord’s work on the assimilation of mass media into everyday life while the duo will sit for hours debating the relative merits of The Matrix, George Lucas’ THX 1138, Logan’s Run and Fahrenheit 451, and the album as a whole conjures images of totalitarian dystopias and uncertain futures.

“‘Society Of The Spectacle’ the book is about the unreality of reality, how the media changes your thoughts and so on, and a lot of the tracks relate to that stuff” Rob says. “The first track, ‘Nu Control’, is about the media controlling you. In the past they’d batter you with a bat or a sword, now they have other ways. And we’re part of the system too – the record keeps repeating and repeating until you think ‘fucking hell, it’s doing my head in’”. Repetition is indeed a recurring theme; check ‘Bionic’’s relentless refrain (“alcoholic drug addict I am bionic, bionic”). It’s like repetitive musical torture – in a good way.

Anyone that tried to decode the Hegel / Gurdjieff / Crowley references across ‘The Owl Of Minerva’ will know what we’re dealing with here: visceral dance/rock with an unusually cerebral message. The dubstep-inflected ‘Paris In The 20th Century’ was inspired by “a shitty Jules Verne book” (props to Skream and all that, but we can’t see him slipping in a literary reference among the half-speed bass-bothering) while ‘The Moth’ is about the life and tragic death of Virginia Woolf.

South Central are here to completely redefine the parameters of dance music. To show that one band member posing by a synth does not a crossover act make, and that intense BPMs can propel meaningful ideas.



1.                   Nu Control

2.                   The Day I Die

3.                   Bionic

4.                   Demons

5.                   S.O.S

6.                   No Way Back

7.                   The Fourth Way

8.                   Paris In The Twentieth Century

9.                   Anima

10.               Crawl (feat. Gary Numan)

11.               Society Of The Spectacle

12.               The Moth (feat. A Place Of Bury Strangers)