Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
For someone who’s only been publicly releasing music for three years, TJ Hertz aka Objekt has managed to pinpoint a sound that’s inherently his incredibly quickly, putting out densely layered, perceptive techno that can take a sharp left turn into unexpected territories just as you're starting to get comfortable with it. It’s unsurprising that his tracks are finished with an expertly crafted sheen, given his background in the behind-the-scenes world of electronic music production (he previously worked at music software company Native Instruments, and studied engineering). Hertz is a perfectionist, having an acute self-awareness over his music (he's said that he feels self-conscious about his own writing process having read about how quickly other artists work), labouring over tracks even if the end result is to make them sound unfinished or incomplete.
After self-releasing a series of very well-received self-titled 12"s, with a couple of split singles and a release on Hessle Audio in 2012, Hertz is finally making his anticipated longform debut with 'Flatland'. His first release on Bill Kouligas’ PAN label, ‘Flatland’ is an entirely different but equally strange entity to his earlier output. Where a lot of his 12"s were made for the floor, his debut album displays more introspective and minimalist tendencies. His recent track on a split with Dopplereffekt, Ganzfeld, features a whirling bassline that slides in and out of the track without a clear pattern, as atmospheric undertones slowly crescondo until they fall flat into silence before reappearing – an accurate sonic indicator of what to expect from 'Flatland'.
Utilising space in interesting and eerie ways is a common theme of the record, adding a sometimes unnerving tension waiting for Hertz’s next turn. While he's always experimented with blank space, 'Flatland' leans away from the fuller, sub-bass heavy productions of his 12"s and towards producing music that feels half-empty, with a lot of clear space yet a lot of striking elements to it. Opener Agnes Revenge carries on the story of Agnes, featured on 'Objekt #3' as Agnes Demise and finishing with Agnes Apparatus later on in the album. Coming in with a trickling synth pattern that unravels like the tape inside an old VHS, it’s an aural representation of the tangled, glossy black tape that adorns the record’s cover.
The stray, morse code-sounding bleeps that scatter themselves throughout the record bring to mind Hertz’s admiration for machinery, especially on One Fell Swoop and First Witness, as they’re some of the few sounds on the record that have a clear structure and rhythm. Having talked about how he often layers over different versions of tracks, that sense is still present here, but 'Flatland' is very much a finished product. A sleek, crystal-clear and extremely focused record that demonstrates why it was worth waiting for Objekt to create an incredible record.
PAN released 'Flatland' on October 20th 2014 (buy).