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Planetary
Assault
Systems
Planetary Assault Systems
Perhaps the most well-known production alias of Luke Slater, Planetary Assault Systems is one musical act that lives up to its name: throwing down a gauntlet of massive electrified sound like something you’d expect from an invasion force (or perhaps liberation force?) of alien spacecraft, P.A.S. has spent almost a quarter century as a standard-bearer for the most uncompromising factions of the techno movement. Interpreting “funk” as something chromed and robotic, while also making undeniably sweaty and sensuous music that could be labeled as “industrial,” P.A.S. has showed a disregard for accepted musical templates and has become deeply inspirational for other adventurous spirits.

The project first made a name for itself on the influential U.K. independent Peace Frog, with numerous 12” releases and also with radical full-lengths like Drone Sector and Atomic Funkster. Pairing “minimal” structures with a “maximal” attention to fine detail, these deeply involving narratives could better be called “optimal” techno rather than either of these two polar extremes. Though these records coincided with a newfound public hunger for “electronica” beginning in the late ‘90s, they made no concessions to anyone expecting to be led by the hand. Fresh out the gate, Planetary Assault Systems delivered tracks like “Dungeon” and “Gated” whose sharp emotional and tonal contrasts turned public dance floors and private minds into (to borrow a track title from Atomic Funkster) a “DarkCity” of untamed pulses and energy flows.

Now, in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, techno music seems to have a legitimacy and crossover appeal unlike at any previous point in its history. Free from excessive media hype, and no longer a guaranteed safe space for trainspotters, contemporary techno culture holds out a promise of experimental freedom. For this state of affairs, modern producers owe a solid debt to the genre-reviving efforts of Planetary Assault Systems, particularly the 2009 Temporary Suspension LP and what Bleep.com noted as its “relentless, pounding metallic and caustic bass sounds.” Also noting how the LP was “best enjoyed in its entirety,” the reviewers here are certainly onto something: Planetary Assault Systems’ uniqueness is the end product of mixing sonic diversity with straightforward insistence, which invites full-spectrum experiences rather than just casual listens.

The same can easily be said of works like the follow-up LP The Messenger (Ostgut Ton, 2011). This renaissance period, in which P.A.S. played such a vital role, cemented the reputation of Berlin’s Berghain and associated Ostgut Ton label as the leading edge of a subculture, giving the style a solid foothold in one of the world’s most popular destinations for the ‘creative class’ to work and live in. Having achieved this, the sky is the limit for Planetary Assault Systems’ experimental tendencies: the newest opus Arc Angel (released in September of 2016) stretches out stylistically even more than its predecessors, renewing an emphasis on melody over nearly 100 minutes of new material. As Slater remarks, "I really like the idea of new sounds that can reach parts of us never explored. As humans we are developing all the time, our senses keep on developing. We cannot see the whole color spectrum; we can't hear all frequencies; but they exist. There's of course a lot out there we don't know yet about, and I'm just trying to explore that realm with music.” The producer also notes how this latest epic features “regression and progression going on at the same time,” affirming the existence of a paradox that has been central to techno’s unique evolution.

Temporary Suspension and its follow-ups were not a Big Bang in which something formed out of apparent nothingness, but the result of a steady buildup of lesser (yet no less interesting) events. Since 2007, Slater was the selector-in-chief of the Mote- Evolver label, where he rallied likeminded talents around his ethos of enlightening intensity and confirmed it as a bona fide global movement.

The recent introduction of the “Planetary Funk: 22 Light Years” 12” series has also shown Slater coming full circle, acknowledging a previous peak in PAS’ career without being overtly nostalgic. These new records form a temporal bridge between two eras of electric excitement, testifying to their creator’s persistence and - with the help of remixers like Ben Sims, Josh Wink and Ø [Phase] - showing how P.A.S. is not simply a shrine to be worshipped at, but an encouragement to others to take further steps into uncharted sonic and psychic territory.
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