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Mark Wundercastle: Cell (1080p)

New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based producer Mark Wundercastle’s blend of techno influences feels at once euphoric and claustrophobic, dense with sound and often clipping in the red, a little added distress of distortion on the top layer. It recalls the harder techno of the turn of the century, combining some nods to vintage hardcore with renewed enthusiasm. Opening cut “AC” isn’t the best benchmark for what’s to follow, but it does show off Wundercastle’s love of Detroit second wave techno, with clear nods to Carl Craig and company. (Free download of “AC” on SoundCloud!)

However, it’s on the subsequent tracks that his hybrid of coarser sounds and jacked-up beat making really comes together with style. Right out of the gate, “FDRM” is far more aggressive and punchier than the opener, with a distorted hardcore kick and a bit of industrial bite in the arrangement, with a bulbous acid bassline and skittering 909 hihats. He still demonstrates plenty of love for Detroit in the momentous pads that move it along, still sounding uplifting even amidst the more crowded production and effects that characterize his palette. I think what makes Wundercastle’s music sound so nostalgic is that it appears that he’s largely using tried and true gear to make these tracks, with nods to acid, established reliable hardware like the TR-909, and cleverly timed nods to 90s party culture, particularly in the relentless piano licks of “Piano Jakker.”

“NAP” is built primarily around a languid, looping sample and a punchy, aggressive 909 drum track, all thick piank noise snares and big, slamming kick drums. It’s a welcome change-up when its drums fall out to allow for some sense of space, and it’s that push and pull between maximized, filled-in sound and more spacious resting points that makes Cell a dynamic listen. At times that aggressive, pummeling rhythm reminds me of vintage Prototype 909, working with some similar sounds but through the lens of passed time. My favorite might be “Gute Zeitan” (“Good Times”), which has a spirited, anthemic refrain that’s tempered by some ruder, more aggressive drumming, pounding away but with a big fat smile the whole time. It seems to epitomize Wundercastle’s love of late 90s techno and a touch of the rave spirit with delight and a wink, both harsh and joyous.

Buy it: Bandcamp