Review: String Theorem & Test Pattern - ‘Internal // External’
String Theorem and Test Pattern are well known amongst Melbourne’s dance community. Having been involved in Autosea, Dance Flaws and Yours&Mine, the two have been seen around town everywhere from Lounge to Boney, to Section 8 and Revolver.
Using their weekend antics as inspiration, the two spend their weekdays working and putting together beats in their apartment in Brunswick – fine-tuning kickdrums for hours on end and pushing noise machines to the limits – much to the dismay of their third housemate. Their first collaborative release – 2018’s ‘Paradise Architects’ – is an ode to the two’s idols and legends of Chicago house, such as Ron Trent, Mr. Fingers and Glenn Underground.
One year later, ‘Internal // External’ is the second collaboration between the the two and sees them refine the strongest elements of their first release whilst utilising more experimental and intriguing sounds. The obsession with 90s Chicago is still there – and the 4-track EP would fit in perfectly amongst releases on Dust Traxx, Headphoniq or Prescription Records.
“We’ve definitely progressed more towards actively making the kind of music we enjoy and want to release” Test Pattern – real name Jackson Gray – detailed. “As opposed to whatever happens to come out when we start a track.”
‘Internal // External’ kicks off with the slow burner ‘Premature’. Built off a rising synth stab and grooving bassline. The 9-minute track uses punchy keys and the Korg Polysix synthesiser to bring the track to life. Along with ‘By Definition’, Test Pattern explains the track “came about in the same session we had just bought it, and we were having a jam with it – pretty much all the synth on the two tracks are the Polysix.”
‘Premature’ is spacey, dreamlike and interstellar – with the final third of the track introducing an arpeggiating synth that ensures we lift off to explore the vibrant, psychedelic EP. ‘By Definition’ picks up the pace with another marvellous bassline that provides the groundwork to build off. As it progresses more and more elements are added – a droning, atmospheric pad drifts alongside the drums, followed by an eclectic and seductive synth stab that expands the soundscape, and the final striking, acid-like lead piercing through the mix, creating a highly-listenable, toe-tapping jam.
Due to the limitations of the synths they were using, the two musicians decided to place an emphasis on live recordings, explaining “The Polysix doesn’t have a MIDI in/out, they have a more natural human groove as the parts were played in, not sequenced.”
The highlights of the EP are well and truly the latter half – ‘Waves Internal’ and ‘Waves External’ showcases a beautifully textured, well-polished drum sequence that gives way to a mesmerising set of synths that bounce around the track like a masterful echo – fading into the nothingness one after another to create a well and truly transcendent experience.
The more progressive of the two similarly-titled tracks, ‘Waves Internal’s pads are a moody, mesmerising development throughout the cut that create a self-contained dance track, but one that can also be easily incorporated into a mix. According to the two artists, “Internal was very much built around the idea of sitting on the same groove for ages and then eventually using a chord change later in the track – similar to Fresh and Low’s ‘New Life’.”
Like a classic record when the B-side is just as good as the A-side, ‘Waves External’ takes the core elements of the previous cut and flips them on their head – adding an afro-esque drum pattern and an upbeat bassline that turns the relatively laidback tune into a 4am banger. The brazen on-and-off key hits and delicate, dancing acid synth propel the track into late-night territory –this one is sure to be getting played around Melbourne in the early hours of the morning.
As the EP draws to a close, String Theorem and Test Pattern’s commitment to the craft begins to dawn on us. The EP is a passion project more than anything for these collaborators, and it isn’t until you’ve finished listening that the attention to detail and inspiration of our dance culture begins to shine through. A beautiful piece of work and a welcome addition to the Melbourne dance music discography, ‘Internal // External’ pays homage to the late-night scenes of our city– with the artists’ own adventures and experiences becoming the lifeblood of the music they have produced.
‘Internal // External’ from String Theorem & Test Pattern is out this Friday on clipp.art.