When I reviewed their record Spillage at the end of last year, I wrote that “hopefully it won’t be long before we see more content from Heavy Water Factory.” As I sit down to write this review six months later, it feels like an eternity has passed, given the current state of affairs, but HWF mastermind Jesse James McClear has made use of the extra time on his hands. Not only has he remastered his 1997 album Author of Pain, but he’s also given us two new EPs, entitled Idiot Proof and the timely Going the Social Distance. Between the two, there are five songs in total, and each has its own place in the HWF catalog. From ambient soundscapes to percussive rhythms, these songs are high-grade timekillers perfect for your pandemic listening or post-protest recovery.
Idiot Proof starts off with its title track, a mid-tempo groove with a sample-heavy intro and a busy final minute of its total three. In this, it works as both a danceable number and as a chilled-out, breathe easy track. “Failure” is the more ambient track, following “Idiot Proof” with an atmospheric slow-burn, one devoid of any percussion and that wouldn’t sound out of place in a PS1-era video game. The sum total of Idiot Proof is something for everyone, be it a modern, techno-informed dancer or an ambient crawler.
Going the Social Distance starts with its title track as well, this one another modern, polished offering. It sounds bright, which is saying something for a song in C. Each segment adds a new feature, a new melody building off the last seamlessly. “Set You Up Nicely” is beat-driven, with the percussion front and center and the ambient synths infiltrating the background. The hi-hats ping-pong from left to right, as the snare grounds the beat while the synths improvise and play as they will. Wrapping things up is “We Am Ready,” synth-laden and futuristic in nature. It’s the most laid-back, easiest going of the five tracks described so far, acting as a clean finish for this three-part cocktail of EBM.
Even for fans of more active, busier electronic music, the variety on display between Idiot Proof and Going the Social Distance is enough of a selling point. As proved by his comeback record, McClear is capable of blending old and new schools to get a satisfying, shimmering product, and it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be stopping anytime soon.