So, after dicking about on Soulseek for many weeks, I finally managed to snag a copy of this. And it’s good. A solid, subtle listen that my tinny, underfed computer speakers are doing sonic violence to. I’m sure listened to on speakers with a decent bass response (or headphones) it could be an album of the year (competition still thin on the ground, even at this late date.) But something about it nags; namely: do I really need another microhouse record? Yes, I know Horsepower produce “garage”, but comparatively – slot “Gorgon Sound” or “Classic Delux’ alongside Sweet Female Attitude, Oxide & Neutrino, or even Darqwan – and Philip Shereburne’s original “if MRI went 2-step” comparison is the only way to even listen to this music, let alone appreciate it. Come looking for fat hooks, juicy chord changes, the human voice (even suitably fucked with), and you’re going to walk away massively disappointed. Approach it as Perlon-Meets-2000Black-Inna-Greensleeves-Style, and you get closer to what makes it so enjoyable.

Still, it hardly redeems my mounting worry that ‘garage’ is a spent force. The breakbeat garage sound has mutated into what Simon Reynolds neatly summarized as ‘gabba-garage’, a pounding masculine rush exactly zero-steps removed from the 98-era Ed Rush/No U Turn stuff that finally drove everyone but black metal fans from the dancefloor. And while Horsepower-style garage still has that squishy female swing, the scalpel-edged production seems light years from the original ruff’n’ready anything-goes vibe that made garage so goddamn exciting. Someone opined the other week on ILM that ‘Bound 4 Da Reload’ killed garage the same way ‘Charly’ killed rave. If so, good. But it doesn’t feel like some new putative golden age is brewing under our noses, ala 92-93 era breakbeat hardcore/darkcore. And yeah, I’m sure someone will read this and piss and moan that I’m pissing and moaning about No New Paradigm Shifts. But I couldn’t see what made Optical better than 2 Bad Mice and I can’t see what will make what ever will come after Horsepower better than Dem 2. Has it come to this?