Thomas Kamholz, a.k.a. Attentat, has been a part of the underground electronic scene for two decades; he’s DJed and performed at raves from the New Mexico desert to the Colorado backcountry to former Eastern Bloc Germany. When he relocated to Iowa City three years ago he founded the vinyl-only techno label Wage Slave. For his fourth release on the label — and his first physical release under this alias — Attentat cuts three throbbing, cavernous tracks on Reflective Surface that explore bounded spaces and how we interact with those. The album features two originals, plus a remix of the title track by L.A.-based artist Israel Vines.
“Reflective Surface” — the title track — sets a precedent for the beat-intensive record that follows. Concurrent purposes and perceptions are mapped out between the low-, mid- and high-ends. Attentat abides by a four-on-the-floor mentality for the load-bearing bass. Riffing off the bass track, the mid-level percussion ranges from congas to high hats to snare hits. The high-end swirls as though it’s some sort of post-industrial white noise, hanging just below the rafters of an empty room with raised ceilings. This trisection mirrors the way Reflective Surface resonates with the body.
The second track, “Section 172,” takes that bodily interaction and renders its application to a crowd of people. Lifted from a chapter of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, Section 172 refers to the implicit division of people in an urban setting through the scheme of work-life balance. To defect is to congregate. To rave is to defect. Reflective Surface is a soundtrack for revolution.
Vines’ interpretation of “Reflective Surface,” though, is the track you’d find spinning between 12 and 3 a.m. — the peak hours. The remix submerges the listener’s headspace in atmospherics, in squelches and swells. Leaning on his dub and breakbeat tendencies, Vines rebuilds “Reflective Surface” nearly into a jungle track — save for the breakneck tempos.
Reflective Surface doesn’t stray from 127 bpm. Attentat embraces the cerebral, rather than urgency. Techno is, in itself, a communicative process — a transference of noises and pulses between the DJ/producer and the audience. The result stirs the organs to generate mass movement within a room of bodies. That raves often occur in reclaimed spaces — warehouses, parks, etc. — prefigures Attentat’s intention. Reflective Surface is the same negotiation between public and private that takes place in Debord’s urbanism, an attempt to eradicate that which fragments community.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 221.