Right in the Face

Photo: Dan Benson

BY Daryl KeatingPublished Oct 27, 2016

"The way I like to use synthesizers is to bite, to bite at people's faces and heads, rather than using them to create a warm atmospheric environment where everyone can be happy," Powell says. "I like the fact that it's aiming for you, like going straight at you, rather than trying to make you feel good."
If that makes Powell's latest record, Sport, sound aggressive, then good, because that's exactly what it is. The term punk is bandied about a lot in relation to Powell's music, and it's a fair description: there are catchy bass lines, nods to counterculture and vigour to boot. The only thing is, Powell is not, and never has been, a punk.
"I didn't grow up going to basement shows, I haven't got tattoos all over my body and I don't just wear black," he explains. "I've got a ton of punk records and I love the culture of it, but for me punk is an attitude, a feeling you have against other things. I think that can be applied in lots of different ways, besides out-and-out punk music. A lot of people I work with and choose to collaborate with are people who possess that same spirit."
Powell's label, Diagonal, is considered one of the most innovative imprints operating in the UK today, and part of the reason for that is because, like Powell himself, it's operating on the fringes of dance music. Earlier this year, Diagonal released Not Waving's Animals, an under-the-radar gem that could've been considered the premier techno-punk album this year — until Sport came along, that is.
While Animals took a punk approach to electronic music, Sport grabs techno by the nethers and spits in its face. Tracks like "Junk" and "Frankie" leave you at a loss as to whether you should be dressing for the club or a dingy basement, and that strange dichotomy crops up again and again. This blend isn't something you just dream up because it sounds interesting either: it comes straight from Powell's character. "This record is literally me in music, the purest articulation of what goes on in my head. As an artist, it's your responsibility to identify what you think is interesting and meaningful, and find a way to present it to the world. That's all I try to do, really."

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