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"Congratulations on being a big fucking deal" sneers poet Leslie Winer on 'This Blank Action', the opening track to Diamond Version's debut album. On an album that deals heavily with the language of advertising and modern technology, this statement could easily be aimed at our social media narcissism. In fact 'This Blank Action' targets the fashion industry, with Winer's taunting vocal performance being both bitchy and patronising in equal measure.

Underneath all of this is a dark electro stomp, a repeated, brief buzzing in the verses along with echoing synthesisers as the song progresses. The beat meanwhile, remains steady throughout, allowing everything else to build and intensify around it. It's the one constant in a menacing, direct track that's enough to erode the listener's confidence in themselves.

The duo behind Diamond Version, Olaf Bender and Carsten Nicolai, may be better known by their solo monikers - Byetone and Alva Noto respectively - but they have a history of collaboration that far precedes Diamond Version's inception. After founding Raster-Noton in 1996 Olaf and Carsten would often time solo releases to allow them to tour together and collaborate on stage, they also worked as part of the trio Signal, but it wasn't until they curated the 2011 Short Circuit festival with Mute that they considered recording as a duo.

The original intention was just to release a series of 12" records, and whilst they released 5 Eps over two years, the project became much larger, and unwieldy as time went on. Some of the tracks from the EPs have made their way on to CI, but there is a cohesion to their debut album that was missing from those earlier, sometime abstract EPs.

'This Blank Action' is one of a few tracks on CI (which stands for Corporate Identity) that uses vocal collaborations. 'Feel The Freedom' features Kyoka, whilst 'Were You There' has Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys delivering vocals. In many ways each track featuring a guest vocalist is tailored to best suit their delivery and their material. The backing for 'This Blank Action' works as a compliment to Winer's spoken word piece, whilst the aggressive beat of 'Feel The Freedom' matches the rough sound of Kyoka's solo work.

A mechanical beat and Kyoka's distorted vocals characterise 'Feel The Freedom'. Unlike other tracks on CI that operate by layering up sounds into dense, dark electronic pieces, 'Feel The Freedom' is essentially a plateau of sound. It is however, the album's most brutal moment. The percussion, clipped to provide a sharp beat, is almost militaristic whilst Kyoka's vocals are like a rallying cry, timed to match the backing's relentless march.

In that sense it provides the link to Neil Tennant's appearance, which re-uses the lyrics to an old spiritual, originally written by African-American slaves in the 19th century. Whilst it remains quite simplistic lyrically - each stanza is constructed of four lines, three of which are a repeated refrain along the lines of "were you there when they sacrificed my lord" - 'Were You There' has a lasting legacy. It was reported to be one of Gandhi's favourite hymns and has been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Diamanda Galas. Yet it sits awkwardly on the album.

Part of this may be down to a feeling of cultural appropriation - though it's worth re-iterating that Diamond Version certainly weren't the first to do this. Interpretation around spirituals differs, but there is growing acceptance that through repeated reference to freedom, these songs were about the desire for freedom from slavery, veiled in phrasing that suggested assimilation into white American culture. Ideas of freedom certainly resonate throughout 'Were You There' which focuses on the crucifixion of Christ, an act meant to free people from sin, but as has been noted by some scholars, spirituals often used christian ideas as oblique references to their own bondage. In the story of the crucifixion the only freedom from suffering was death.

Is it right then to take a song which has such significance and transport it into a modern day record about our increasingly technologic world? The difficulty arises from political edge the record has. The duo make reference to advertising and capitalism in the visuals for their live shows, and the influence of propaganda (both Olaf and Carsten grew up in East Germany) is certainly apparent in the delivery of vocals. Sure, capitalism is a system that only benefits the rich and creates he gulfs between the rich and the poor, but to draw a link with slavery seems disrespectful. Perhaps if there was more of a sense that this track was creating a link to the sweatshops that create the screens we are transfixed by and the fast fashion we follow then there might be a point, but otherwise it only serves to continue the obfuscation of the spiritual's original meaning and purpose.

It also highlights a larger problem with CI - its inability to engage with the listener on a meaningful level. Whilst tracks like 'Science For A Better Life', 'Connecting People' and 'This Blank Action' use spoken word to co-opt the linguistics of the capitalist world, the majority of the record is more instrumental in focus and many tracks feel like extended loops. 'Raising The Bar' is a good example of this. Essentially a glitchy beat and rising synthesiser chord, it offers little else except for some minor variations and brief pauses. Perhaps with the duo's live visual accompaniment, this dark track takes on it's own brooding intensity, unfortunately on the album it feels like an interlude.

That's not to say all of the instrumentals are disappointing. There are some great tracks on here like 'Access to Excellence' which again uses a repetitive backing, but layers on chopped vocal samples to create a thoroughly dystopian track with an eye on the dancefloor. The closing track 'Make Believe' also shows of the duo's ability to craft interesting electronic soundscapes, with a track that draws in ambient, dark wave and glitch influences. The crunch, schizophrenic percussion works as a great counterpoint to the lighter synthesisers, offering the first point on CI where the sound opens out. Throughout the record the experience is one of claustrophobia and fear of the technological world - in some respects this record is the antithesis to Kraftwerk's Computer World. That may have been Diamond Version's intention all along, but unfortunately it makes for a record that offers little in return value.

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