by: Ariel King
Sep 29, 2021
Boys Noize, the moniker of venerated tech giant Alex Ridha, has been cemented into the highest echelons of electronic music history since the turn of the millenium. Having held Beatport’s “Best Electronic Act” for three years in a row and bagging remixes for legendary acts like Depeche Mode, Snoop Dogg, Daft Punk, Justice, and more over the course of two decorated decades, the Berliner’s legacy creates high expectations for his latest studio album, +/- (pronounced “polarity”). Though, rather than chase acclaim on his fifth full-length project, Ridha opts to tip the scales into more experimental territories across the duration of the new LP, allowing the album to really wear its name on its sleeve. Far from an introduction to Boys Noize, +/- is clearly an endeavor for the fans, but one for Ridha’s own personal satisfaction, too.
In addition to its characteristically dark club aesthetic, +/- focuses on themes of love and seduction, traversing the spaces between the chase, the fall, and the eventual heartbreak. Almost as if it was designed with the fantasy of picking up a stranger on the dance floor in mind, the record finds sultry instrumentals that balance Boy Noize’s own polarities. Utilizing the project to blend sonic opposites in order to create “something greater than the two parts,” the record brings forth wiry, infectious beats and brooding, shadowy soundscapes to achieve the dichotomy Ridha is aiming for. Unsurprisingly, he nails the sweet spot in such a way that allows one to listen to the project multiple times and still glean different perspectives with each rinse. +/- presents a Choose Your Own Adventure appeal that isn’t easily or commonly captured across an LP’s tracklist.
From the onset of the album’s opening track, “Close,” industrial tropes reminiscent of works by Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, pull listeners into a dark Berlin club, steeping them in seductive, engulfing pulses. This feeling remains a present motif throughout the majority of the record. Perhaps the world’s foremost authority on late-night warehouse appeal, Boys Noize throws listeners into a sweaty, grimy world of his own making and traps them in.
A collaboration with Rico Nasty features the singer crooning “I think I got a girl crush” over Boys Noize’s bouncing, hypnotic framework, its looping instrumentals and lyrics coursing through the entire track. First appearing a year and a half ago in early 2020 alongside his single “Buchla 100,” the track initially made headlines because it lacked Rico Nasty’s signature rhyme schemes, swapping them out for a gentler purr. While the other track didn’t manage to make the full LP’s final cut, “Girl Crush” fits neatly into the rest of the +/- tracklist.
“Detune” moves back towards equilibrium with an eerie, haunting tech-house disposition that’s dripping in Halloween appeal. The track sounds as though it could have easily been a Gessaffelstein brainchild, though, with Ridha and Mike Lévy’s well-documented collaborative history and complementary sounds, that comes as no surprise. However, with tracks such as “Sperm” and “Nude” blatantly spelling out the seduction Boy Noize hopes to achieve within this new record, the thumping beats coax along a different frame of mind. “Sperm” offers a more experimental, gyrating house screech while the Tommy Cash-assisted “Nude” tears into more drum ‘n’ bass territory.
“Act 9” features more melancholic notes that balance neatly with Vinson’s sultry vocals. “I’m caught in my head/ But I’m losing my mind,” he sings, begging to be heard and calling out. The instrumentals appear disconnected Vinson, creating an isolating tone that falls into the track’s theme. The song acts as the perfect closer to +/-, which finds itself falling into industrial tones that are created for late-night Berlin raves. “Act 9” acts as the moment crowds filter out of the club and stumble home in the daylight.
On the whole, +/- finds Boys Noize creating a record that could pique the interest of Trent Reznor just as easily as it could grasp the casual raver that’s already out on the dance floor. What’s more, the polarities that describe Boys Noize as an artist have been well-noted throughout his career. The harrowing, acidic baptisms he’s hosted in dark warehouses for more than 20 years stand in direct contrast to who Alex Ridha actually is in person. Observing Ridha in the booth was once described by Dancing Astronaut as “akin watching the ravages of Mr. Hyde in the streets of London,” while knowing the producer behind the beats feels more like, “[having] tea with Dr. Jekyll moments afterwards,” the record feels like a veteran’s due victory lap—as a vehicle to lay himself out honestly and maybe even have a little fun. Overall, Boys Noize’s industrial techno sound appears primed in his latest release, the full-length feature finding him returning to his roots while modernizing his earlier sound.
Featured image: Dance Music Northwest