Dais Records is – as always – on a hot streak for the year. With standout releases from Them Are Us Too, Choir Boy and a wonderful collaboration between Merzbow and HEXA already behind them, and a highly anticipated release from ADULT. on the way, it seems like 2018 is another year of only gems for the label. Fitting perfectly into the string of high-quality music is Nicky Mao’s latest as Hiro Kone, Pure Expenditure. The deconstructed take on techno matches the label’s standard fare in moodiness, but Mao’s aim reaches farther, imagining the quasi-real, dystopic world where the ethos extends beyond apolitical terror.

Pure Expenditure has a definitive mood, and every aspect of the release solidifies the mechanic darkness the music exudes. The track titles reference genetics, physics and architecture, and the album gives off bits of resistance in names like “Outside the Axiom” and “Disoccupation of the Sphere.” The cover features a dim green and a pale gray, mixed together in oozing, chemical-like patterns. Before even hearing the music, the focus on the non-human and the human’s ability to transcend their lot is showcased.

Thankfully, the music is no letdown to these promises. If you drew a graphic to represent the general progression of Mao’s music here, it would look like a single, straight line expanding and imploding into a gooey mess over the course of the track’s runtime. The title track begins with a steady, pounding bassline, but the entropy only increases as the music develops. Mao slowly adds warped vocal samples, strange beeping sounds and bits of static, all bumping into each other and tripping over the next clip.

The two-part “Scotch Yoke” exemplifies this move towards chaos, as the techno-oriented first half eventually accumulates so much weight that its bottom completely gives out and segues into a spacious mix of synthesizers. This isn’t a pleasing ambient interlude, though, as the domineering force of the track remains. The drones are massive clusters, and the distortion placed around each additional sound is thick and gritty. Throughout, there’s no real melody or focal point. Everything comes out in one giant stream that impresses more with density than with economy.

Due to the album’s focus on heavy textures and gigantic volumes, it delivers best when given the proper output. The intricacies and dynamics of the music won’t survive being played through an insufficient sound system, and odds are your laptop speakers would take some damage as well. When Pure Expenditure projects and resonates the way it’s supposed to – loud, low and crisp – the result is a seamless mix of mystification and empowerment. The wall of sound that opens “Poortgebouw” shows this trait well, and the sudden compression of the music into a menacing percussion loop is one of the most startling moments on the whole album.

The second half of the album continues to blur the line between the album’s dance-friendly side and Mao’s more elongated approach. Even though the beats still feel as driving as they did earlier, the context is different. Where, under the right circumstances, tracks like “Pure Expenditure” could serve as vibrant dance material, “Truth That Silence Alone” sounds far too dark for a party. This doesn’t make the music at all unenjoyable – it instead solidifies the call-to-arms and the anger that subtly underlie Pure Expenditure. Mao isn’t audacious for the sake of being audacious; rather, she uses the gigantic sounds as a means of taking up as much space as possible. Like the European monuments and machinery mentioned in the track titles, Mao’s music is massive and sturdy, bound to outlast any flesh that scoffs at it.

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