The last time we heard anything from John (Juan) Mendez it was with Camella Lobo as part of Tropic of Cancer on a three track EP called Permissions of Love issued via Italy's Mannequin label last month. Prior to this, Mendez released several more singles and EPs as part of this duo in addition to a couple of twelves as Silent Servant on the now decommissioned Sandwell District imprint. It's hard to believe that this is the first full length solo release that Mendez has worked on since his debut back in 2006 and so my expectations were unusually high after grabbing a copy of the disc.
Noise supremo Dominick Fernow's Hospital Productions seems an odd choice of label to issue this album but, given his recent work under the Vatican Shadow moniker there is some kind of skewed logic behind it I guess. I had spent some time listening to the previous Silent Servant releases as well as Sandwell District's Feed-Forward album in preparation for my initial session with this LP but I needn't have bothered - the approach taken here is from a different set of reference points entirely.
Lead track 'Process (Introduction') is as much about texture as it is rhythm. Synth drones are layered above minimal arpeggios and a voice intones wordlessly in a foreign tongue against ricocheting percussive elements. 'Moral Divide (Endless)' starts off sounding like a muscular take on something from Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats before adding a drifting flute sample to it's trebly beat-box chassis. But it's on 'Temptation & Desire' that Mendez lets his love for post-punk aesthetics run riot by using a blunted drum track and bass guitar rumble as it's backbone whilst more disembodied voices flicker and billow. During the penultimate track 'A Path Eternal', Mendez pulls the beats completely and uses another heavily manipulated voice which is set against a spectral, almost ambient drift.
After a few spins, there's no mistaking that this is a Silent Servant album but over the course of thirty six minutes, Juan Mendez constantly redesigns his signature sound whilst retaining the basic elements that have made his previous work such compulsive listening.
Negative Fascination is available as in limited edition vinyl, CD and as a digital download via Boomkat.