172 posts tagged techno
Alter Ego: “Gate 23 (Lost on Arrival…) (Isolée Remix)” (Transphormed, Klang)
Isolée’s schaffel mix of Alter Ego’s “Gate 23” takes their beatless interlude and turns it into an even more Alter Ego sounding track than the original. Its triplets are relentless in the best possible way.
Portable: “Keep On” (Superlongevityfive, Perlon 2010)
What a treat it was to rediscover this great hidden gem on Perlon’s 2010 label showcase. It’s a completely different animal from the more leftfield glitchy sounds of his earlier releases, but no less solid.
Dadub: You Are Eternity (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
I find it intriguing when record labels focus very specifically on a particular sound, and in the case of SA it is minimal techno that veers into dark corners of rhythm and noise, much like the music of the label’s creator, Lucy. A fairly humorless, dark dirge every time, with a variable as to how dancefloor compatible releases are or are not. It’s my opinion that this all traces back to Pan Sonic’s Kulma album from 1997; it strikes me as the genesis for much of this music, though often times there’s an emphasis on dancefloor accessibility that never seemed to interest Pan Sonic all that much (beyond their initial album as a trio). Dadub’s You Are Eternity is a lumbering beast of an album, but it squarely falls in line with what I’ve just described. All of the tropes are here — dense, drippy atmosphere, thick, punchy, staggered kicks and noise, very little in the way of melody, and only occasional uses of human voice samples to brighten the sonic palette. That said, it’s a pretty fantastic ride. Whether the sound is totally abstract and freeform (“Unbroken Continuity”) or bobbing in time (“Circle”), the vibe of the album is consistently dark and dense; it sounds especially good on headphones with the volume cranked, but this would also sound pretty great on a big PA, with a physicality about its tracks that often is likely to force bodies to move. The slow halfbeat of “Transfer,” made in collaboration with King Cannibal, is perhaps the ferocious centerpiece of You Are Eternity, with rhythm that sounds more like a series of fierce collisions than beats. The only misstep for me is “Truth,” which relies heavily on samples of men talking about the stock market, something which somehow seems not only unnecessary but out of character with the rest of the album. In contrast, one of my favorite cuts, “Death,” completely soars without the need for any topical sampling; its cloud of drones and punchy syncopation do the work.
As far as techno albums go, this one falls pretty far off from the dancefloor, more concerned with intricate beatmaking, dense atmosphere, and a consistently dark mood. The reason the album works so well is that Dadub is apparently relatively unconcerned with being DJ-friendly and instead freer to explore other less traveled terrain, no less physical or visceral. It’s more like a trudge through the wild, with crags and crevasses and unpredictable foliage — seething with life but decidedly feral.
Terekke: YYYYYYYYYY (L.I.E.S.)
Terekke, a.k.a. Matt Gardner, presents three deeeeeep techno cuts that are likely to appeal to anyone into the dub end of the spectrum. “Bank 3” has the deep undulating pulse of DeepChord paired with some filtered house claps and details, all rolling along at a mid-tempo clip with a vibe that recalls turn of the century Mille Plateaux tech house or something more organic. “Piano” turns down the filter even more, with its kick tweaked into a muted throb while a thick sine bass holds steady. It’s like pressing your ear to the wall when a dance party is happening next door, all of the pulse of the music without any of the high-end or detail, instead just this really infectious pulse to which you can’t help but bob along.
"Amaze" slows things down a few notches more, dripping with dubby delay and reverb, trickling chords and pads given equal prominence along a cyclical layer of surface hiss. Soulful vocal samples liven it up, bridging the divide between a sample-heavy act like Burial and something more sublime like vintage Pole but with some added dancefloor umph. Very cool stuff, definitely recommended for the later hours on a pair of good headphones.
Black Sites: Prototype EP (Pan)
The duo Black Sites herein present two tracks of fairly squirrelly techno that’s rough around the edges in all the right ways. “Prototype” starts and just goes, a dusty kick drum, open hi-hat, and filtered stabs that repeat continuously. Stray bleeps and noise find their way into the mix as it proceeds, before the kick disappears and the entire thing feeds back onto itself until it turns into a shrill wall of rhythmic noise. “N313P” continues along the same lines but pushes further into the outskirts of accessibility, starting with a squelchy synth that falls in sync with a distorted 4-to-the-floor kick. Syncopated leads and patterns weave in and out, giving the track rhythm beyond the lurch of its main kick. It’s a noisy tapestry of squelches, noise, zaps, and beats that would likely lend itself surprisingly well to mixing with a qualified ear but also is effective on headphones as a squirmy crossover between techno and something other. Recommended for fans of Container, Metasplice, or perhaps Actress in a ruder mood.
Microfilm: AggroPastels (Fiche)
This was a true labor of love of which I’m very proud. And so while I run the risk of egomania by heralding it as my favorite of the year, I’d be lying otherwise. I didn’t listen to anything more, having scrutinized every detail of this album. This year we got 2 really high profile nods from Huffington Post and Towleroad, but getting traction from the blogs that helped us gain some fans with our last album in 2008 was especially difficult this year. All that aside, it’s by far the best produced music I’ve worked on to date, with more attention in the details, mix, and mastering. The album has a fairly distinct arc to it, with the final stretch of tracks (starting with “Penthouse”) being perhaps my personal favorites.
Pet Shop Boys: Electric (x2)
"It’s the most solid showing from them in ages, and I can’t get enough of it. How refreshing to hear Pet Shop Boys still going strong in the same year that OMD resurfaced with their rather outstanding English Electric album. Both play to each group’s strengths, but with Electric, Pet Shop Boys strongly contend for my favorite album of 2013. If the two had something to prove, they’ve done it, and then some…”
Hammock: Oblivion Hymns (Bandcamp)
"…Each piece on Oblivion Hymns feels like its own catharsis, including opener “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb.” Surely there’s some drama in these track titles alone, and they’re reflected in the big, swooning arrangements of the music itself. It would run the risk of all feeling too sentimental or cloying if it weren’t so damn perfect. They really get it right here, nary a note out of place…”
The Haxan Cloak: Excavation (Tri Angle)
"Supposedly the concept of this album is the journey of the soul after death — and rest assured, Krlic is not talking pearly gates, angels and harps. This is one sordid set of pitch black tracks. The transition from Aurora Borealis to Tri Angle makes sense by virtue of how much more rhythmically focused this set of tracks is; while cello and strings still appear here and there, they are not the focus of the music at all. Compared to his self-titled debut, this feels more overtly electronic and has more of a low-end pulse to it, but it’s a far cry from dance music, with a heavy emphasis on doom…."
Richard Chartier: Interior Field (Line)
"The most notable thing about Richard Chartier’s latest is that it starts with so many organic sounds. The naturalism is startling given his repertoire often focusing on severe, digital minimalism. For Interior Field, Chartier used field recordings from a variety of spaces both large and small around the world. The triangulation of location, focus, and experience informs the often haunting aesthetic of the album, about an hour of sound split into two halves.”
Boards Of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
Boards of Canada’s latest seems to me a hybrid of their output over the years. It has some of the more organic lushness of their last album, The Campfire Headphase, but the tone is overall much darker and gloomier, like their sophomore album Geogaddi. It’s a long one, spread out over seventeen tracks, many of which are fairly short but which add up to a pretty comprehensive album. It continues to showcase their knack for dreamy melodies and dark atmospheres, all set to often mechanical downtempo grooves.
Atom™: HD (Raster-Noton)
"The sound of most of the tracks picks up where his excellent Liedgut album left off, with crisp, digital production that is characterized by white noise, pure wave synths, and meticulously sequenced details. But like many of his releases, there’s a concept unifying the tracks, and in this case, it’s a backlash to manufactured pop and vacant dance music. Restless a spirit as ever, Schmidt starts off perhaps pandering to the Raster-Noton aesthetic before introducing more playful elements…”
Nosaj Thing: Home (Innovative Leisure)
"The new album from Jason Chung, a full 3 years after his last album and its accompanying remix collection, is stunning. It won me over immediately with the introductory combo of melancholic stride of the title track and “Eclipse,” a double-time/half-beat collaboration with Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead, the latter of which is the lead single from Home…”
Atoms For Peace: Amok (XL)
Thom Yorke’s follow-up to his Eraser solo album is with his touring group that includes Nigel Godrich and Flea. The album picks up where Eraser left off, but the sound itself is slightly more that of a band. Yorke’s voice and tendency for skittery, nervous laptop programming dominate once again, with his signature wistfulness coming through on tracks like “Before Your Very Eyes” and “Unless.” There’s nothing so unique about this album in relation to Yorke’s repertoire, but it is still a solid collection of songs that I find myself revisiting again and again.
Holden: The Inheritors (Border Community)
"The Inheritors pushes boundaries considerably further from his debut and is surely transformative. It’s a creative triumph from a man who’s unafraid to take chances, to challenge himself creatively, to trump dancefloor conventions while still operating ostensibly within the periphery of dance music culture. The star of The Inheritors is Holden’s mastery of the modular synth. Because of the nature of the gear used, there is something almost automatically timeless about these tracks, owing as much to the motorik sprawl of krautrock as techno…”
M. Geddes Gengras: Collected Works Vol. I – The Moog Years
"Amidst the whole modular synthesis craze currently, it’s easy to write off Gengras’ Moog excursions as simply jumping on the bandwagon, but I find this collection of six pieces to be engrossing and haunting…"
Autechre: Exai (Warp)
"…It serves as another installment in their continual shapeshifting, emphasizing all of the things they are good at in new permutations and combinations. And that they deliver so much of it this time around, with so little that I’d edit out (editing becomes somewhat arbitrary with this sort of sprawl, almost undermining its raison d’être), that it’s hard to not herald Exai as one of Autechre’s more shining moments of the second half of their career together….”
Steven Tang: Disconnect to Connect (Smallville)
"…Steven Tang’s debut album for Smallville combines an obvious love of Chicago jack with Detroit techno. It has all of the smoothness one might hope for based on the latter, but with a decidedly spacey slant. The album is tight on the details, with plenty of punch to keep warm bodies moving. These are tracks that would work just as well on a dancefloor as they do in the home studio or on headphones. But I think this music is best suited for a night time drive, each track lean and streamlined with nary a detail out of place…"
Frank Bretschneider: Super.Trigger (Raster-Noton)
"…the playful spirit of his 2010 album EXP or 2007’s Rhythm comes through loud and clear here. Highly detailed and syncopated sequences of drum samples, sliced and diced, skitter in and out of his signature glitch aesthetic. But I dare say, some of Super.Trigger is downright funky — a word I never thought I’d associate with Herr Bretschneider.”
µ-Ziq: Chewed Corners (Planet µ)
"…it’s not surprising that he’s drawing inspiration from some of the outskirts of dubstep and halfbeat music, especially considering that Planet µ has been a prime outlet for dubstep, breakbeat, and its myriad fringe mutations over the last decade or longer — but the melodic core of the album is pure Paradinas at his finest…"
Sigur Rós: Kveikur (XL)
Sigur Ros’s latest took me by surprise completely. I’d all but written off their music since Takk, and hearing the immediacy and rawness of Kveikur won me over instantly. I’d never heard the group sound so visceral since some of the downtrodden sprawl of their sophomore album ( ). The rhythm section really drives the music here, with a toughness and confidence that feels inspired.
John Roberts: Fences (Dial)
"Compared to Glass Eights, rhythm is more front and center here, always in stark contrast to his choice of instrumentation and arrangement — that juxtaposition of strings and heavy percussion is at the heart of what makes Fences such an oddly intriguing and engaging album…”
My Bloody Valentine: mbv (mbv)
Kevin Shields’ comeback as My Bloody Valentine took everyone by surprise when he announced the immediate availability of mbv in February. He’s been threatening to follow his masterpiece, 1991’s Loveless, for so long now — so how does it measure up? It’s best to evaluate it on its own terms, with tinges of trends that have come and gone (drum & bass, for instance) buried amidst the usual MBV aesthetic of guitars and effects, effects, effects. The album feels as though it’s in 3 acts, 3 songs each, and my favorite falls at the end. “In Another Way” is my favorite of all, but closer “Wonder 2” is also a fun swirl of sound, with the raucous “Nothing Is,” consisting of a lurching locked groove of riffs and thunderous drums, sandwiched in between. On its own merits it’s a testament to what a talent Shields is, but perhaps is more willing to blend into the current landscape of music rather than feeling so singular and ahead of the curve 20+ years ago.
Towa Tei: Lucky (Warner Music Japan)
My main issue with Towa Tei’s albums in the past had been a lack of consistency — so much so that I sort of ignored him for a few years until hearing “Apple,” Tei’s collaboration with weirdo vocalist Ringo Sheena. It’s completely irresistible, with its chunky house groove and her odd vocals, and it’s a highlight on the album, but there is plenty of joy to go around here. It’s contagious through “Blue for Girls, Pink For Boys,” “Juxtapose,” and “Radio,” among others. Really fun stuff worth a listen.
Machinedrum: Vapor City (Ninja Tune)
"…Fans of Room(s) will find a lot to like here, and the shifts Stewart has made in his production are incremental and measured. Still, the skittery breakbeat of drum & bass is pronounced even as it takes a backseat to the uptempo bass music motifs that characterize many of its tracks. He also continues to exploit pitch-modulated vocal fragments and phrases in a way that is sounding less fresh every time to anyone who was surprised by Burial’s debut, but that doesn’t matter to me; the vocals always service his arrangements for the better, in my opinion…”
V/A: The Black Ideal (Unknown Precept)
"Over the span of eight tracks, The Black Ideal traverses a fair amount of musical terrain, with plenty of variety while still adhering to such a dark aesthetic. Top notch stuff — I hope that Unknown Precept continues to release such quality material…”
Locust: You’ll Be Safe Forever (Editions Mego)
"You’ll Be Safe Forever is not so far off from the haunted samples of his previous outing under his own name, The Revenant Diary, but it also falls in line with the chunky beats of Locust’s Truth Is Born of Arguments album from 1995. Anyone expecting the more chanteusy lyrical side of Wrong or Morning Light may be slightly disappointed, but this is very much Van Hoen in his element otherwise. Hazy interludes break up the more rhythmic tracks, and it’s the contrast between these more ambient interludes and strong beat-laden pieces that defines the album…”
Jon Hopkins: Immunity (Domino)
"…on his follow-up, Hopkins has streamlined his sound to focus on a four-to-the-floor beat and a rawer, more physical sound. The results are staggering, especially when he lets his ideas run free for over nine minutes at a time…"
Diamond Version: EP 1-5 (Mute)
"It’s nice to hear these two artists collaborating with such exuberance; in stark contrast to the ethos of Raster-Noton, Diamond Version brings not only a playful spirit but a versatility for both the dancefloor or at-home listening that is refreshing…"
The Field: Cupid’s Head (Kompakt)
"It’s nice to hear something so tried and true and perhaps somewhat written off now full of so much vitality yet again. In Willner’s capable hands and heart, this mesmerizing batch of looped grooves and patterns takes on a vibrant life of its own…"
OMD: English Electric (OMD)
OMD’s second album as a reunited foursome is significantly improved over their previous comeback. The group envisioned English Electric as a sort of sequel to 1983’s Dazzle Ships, one of their least compromising and most conceptual albums before making a right turn headlong into pop music afterward. There are interludes with vocal synthesis and fragments, another nod to Dazzle Ships' pacing, but the sound is current. “Metroland” is probably the best song we've heard from OMD in decades, effortless and familiar and fresh all at once. And some of the bombast and pomp that characterized an early hit like “Joan of Arc (Maid in Orleans)” comes through loud and clear on “Our System,” with its ascending chorus of voices. A really nice contrast to the Pet Shop Boys' outstanding Electric this year, very good stuff.
John Beltran: Amazing Things (Delsin)
"Amazing Things lives up to its name with a rich optimism reflected in its gorgeous arrangements. This music falls rather squarely outside of techno completely, landing somewhere closer to downtempo IDM or a score. Many tunes combine electronic elements with guitar and drums to create a result that’s more tender, more human…”
diamat: Being is the Sum of Appearing (N5MD)
"Most of these tracks are spacious, with plenty of room for effects and atmosphere. They also tend to include generous lead-in and -out, with pauses between tracks that feel almost too long at times, but such is the patient nature of Diamat’s music."
Goldfrapp: Tales of Us (Mute)
Goldfrapp’s latest is a startling return to the graceful form that defined their spooky debut. Tales of Us feels a little more grounded, less surreal, than Felt Mountain, but no less gorgeous. Pitchfork dismissed this album as being somehow greatly marred by Alison Goldfrapp’s affectation, but I see this as no different than the various vocal stylings that accompanied Felt Mountain or their other more dancefloor compatible albums. It’s a stark and beautiful entry for the duo after what I found to be their most tepid collection of pop songs, Head First. Each story tells the story of a character, focused largely on the cinematic, beatless ballad sound that made their debut so strong in 2000.
Halls: Ark (No Pain In Pop)
This is a more than slightly haunting collection of stark torch songs, carried largely by Sam Howard’s airy voice. Its combination of piano balladry and glitchy programming straddles the worlds of emotive crooning and spacious atmospheres well. The album grows on me with time, especially with the bulk of the material at the album’s center. Halls shares the same R&B revisionist camp as James Blake, although I find Halls’ melancholy to be more compelling than James Blake’s style lately.
Donato Dozzy: Plays Bee Mask (Spectrum Spools)
"It’s certainly more tame than some of the noisy sprawl that’s characterized Bee Mask’s material, but it shares that hazy, obscured surface and a rather melancholic disposition. It’s a solid listen from start to finish, highly recommended for fans of melodic, lush, beatless electronic music…"
Piano Interrupted: The Unified Field (Denovali)
If anyone is familiar with some of my solo music, you know that I’m a sucker for manipulated piano sounds. Piano Interrupted is a duo who base their sound largely around just that, deconstructed, sampled, retriggered, and repurposed piano samples and sounds. There’s a grace about The Unified Field that makes it feel approachable and inviting, even while juxtaposing sounds in sometimes clever or unique ways.
Dusty Kid: III (Isolade)
This album is a recent acquisition of mine, and it’s a double album — it’s a tough one to concisely summarize here without having given it more thorough attention. But it’s strong enough to feel appropriately included here, 20 tracks of finely crafted techno. I’d heard Dusty Kid output before that I liked, but it never struck me as feeling so natural and perfect. It’s a broad and long body of work that is well worth the time.
Disclosure: Settle (Island)
I resisted the hype of Disclosure as the best big thing in dance music. It seemed like too much hype too fast which almost always leads to disappointment to my ears, but I was pleasantly surprised the first time I heard “Grab Her” and realized that this is a really fantastic love letter to dance music. Some of the tracks are vocal while others are decidedly more tracky, but it’s a really compelling crossover from underground and nostalgic 90s house music into mainstream pop with collaborations with Jessie Ware, London Grammar, and more.
Some other favorites overlooked in 2012:
Raime: Quarter Turns Over a Living Line (Blackest Ever Black) [full review]
Christian Löffler: A Forest (Ki Records) [full review]
Lee Gamble: Diversions 1994-1996 & Dutch Tvashar Plumes (Pan) [full review]
Bernard Parmegiani: De Natura Sonorum (GRM) [full review]
Jon Hopkins: Immunity (Domino)
Jon Hopkins has lingered in the outskirts of fame for some time, working with high profile acts as disparate as Imogen Heap, Brian Eno, and Coldplay in the last ten years. His talents as a producer are varied and refined, as anyone who heard Imogen Heap’s music or Eno’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea can testify (one of the most perfectly executed electronic albums of the last several years), and his yet style is fairly distinct when it comes to his own solo music. His previous release under his birth name, 2009’s Insides, was a glitchy hybrid of tweaked IDM beats, bass music flare, and sensitive cinematic scoring, but on his follow-up, Hopkins has streamlined his sound to focus on a four-to-the-floor beat and a rawer, more physical sound. The results are staggering, especially when he lets his ideas run free for over nine minutes at a time. “Open Eye Signal” is the first single from Immunity, and after the glitchier swagger of opening track “We Disappear,” its immediacy and urgency make it a real highlight and sign of how tightened up Immunity is compared to his debut. “Open Eye Signal” combines a visceral rhythm section with dreamy, swooning synth pads, sounding like Boards of Canada on mescaline.
"Breathe This Air" combines his knack for sweet, almost sentimental sounds with a more coarse dancefloor sound; it’s this combination of grit and tenderness that makes Immunity so powerful throughout. The bite of distortion and effects on his drums and bass throbs shifts the mood away from being too syrupy and instead becomes a really provocative push and pull between those worlds. “Collider” picks up where “Open Eye Signal” left off, another really infectious groove that ascends by way of its massive wall of pads that builds over time.
The album is certainly front-loaded with these jams, while the second half has more room to breathe. That contrast is actually somewhat of a relief, even if all of my favorites are among the first four tracks. “Abandon Window” drops out the low end completely for some introspective piano that gives way to vibrating pads, a nice palate cleanser that precedes the grimy shuffle of “Form By Firelight,” sounding perhaps most closely aligned with his debut. This skittering combination of seemingly sycnopated objects and surfaces with lush cinematic arrangements overhead reflects that same push and pull I referenced earlier; even when the tempo varies and the mood differs, it’s that sweet contrast of juxtaposed sounds that is at the core of such a compelling body of work. The only overt dancefloor gestures in the second half of Immunity appear in “Sun Harmonics,” a track that lives up to its name, with a brighter disposition that would make Âme proud, tinges of neo-trance coming through like rays of sunshine through parted clouds. At twelve minutes, it’s the longest track, and the one which Hopkins lets things wander most freely, with fairly conventional underpinnings that support its ideas. The title track is a breezy downtempo number, a comforting notion that after all of the emotional turbulence and physicality that’s preceded, “Immunity” is the result — protected and insular. Hopkins takes us into his world and for an intense ride, but we’re safe from harm in the comfort of his musical ingenuity. Highly recommended. I saw Hopkins bring these tracks to life during his North American tour with Clark and Nathan Fake, and it was well worth it — a moving experience.
Graze: Edges (New Kanada)
Way back in my early days of shopping for records at Gramaphone in Chicago, I remember Adam Marshall’s debut 12” getting hyped. I picked it up in my usual weekly glut of minimal techno and tech house records, back when I still bought a lot of vinyl. Sadly those days are over; if I DJ lately, I just use Ableton and bring my laptop. I save a lot of money and space, though there is something I miss about the ritual of getting new records, previewing them at the shop, taking them home, listening on a Saturday morning with dedicated attention. Fast forward to 2013 and I’ve just been porting my entire digital music library from my old tower to a new laptop, and I stumbled across Mr. Marshall’s music again, unplayed for years. I enjoyed revisiting his stuff but wondered, “What happened to this guy?” (I didn’t obviously pay close attention.) The answer is Graze, a new collaboration between dubstep producer XI (a.k.a. Christian Anderson) and Adam Marshall. I’m not familiar with XI’s repertoire, but these are decidedly four-to-the-floor tracks in most cases, eschewing virtually any trappings one might associate with dubstep or even some of its more leftfield offshoots. Each of the tracks here sounds somehow familiar, almost like variations on a theme (despite that not actually being the case). Rather than merely functioning as dancefloor utility, however, there is a soul behind this music. That doesn’t mean there are swooning vocal bits or any such thing, just warm grooves and infectious hooks that go down smoothly like the best kind of comfort food. Many of the tracks push and pull between the depths of a big warehouse boom, with plenty of space for reverb and details, and something more intimate and personal. Tracks like “Scrap” and “Cold Drop” have a darker edge, with a tinge of industrial bite just below the surface. But more often than not the sound is a shade lighter, like the swirling depth of “Ripley” or the syncopated stride of “GoldN.” Closing track “Oath” is a handsome finale, slowing things down to a chillwave halfbeat as last call. Very handsome all around, recommended for fans of deep electronic grooves that touch on some current trends without being a slave to any of them. A great soundtrack after hours or for a late night drive.
Lakker: Untitled (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
Lakker’s latest on Lucy’s Stroboscopic Artefacts imprint is, for lack of a more eloquent choice of words, fucking fantastic. It is probably my favorite release on the label so far, channeling the same enthusiasm for dark-sided techno but with a flair for something more otherworldly and ambitious atop. The EP is worth the cost of admission just for “Harbour,” a positively brilliant minimal techno number that slowly reveals itself to be a vessel for unusual, microtonal, bending arrangements. The 2nd track, “eeAea,” is comprised mainly of zippy synth leads and nervous, twitchy percussion. The tight attack and release on the track’s synths combine well with all of the shaker sounds in the rhythm track to feel quite claustrophobic to good effect. “Valentina Lane” rounds the release out in style, a more spacious and chill track with a staggered kick and dubby chords, a hook that has a steady 1-2 lurch to it tempered by the more comfortable breathing room of its effects-laden arrangement.
I hadn’t picked up much of Lakker’s repertoire before, but I’m definitely going to go back and investigate; this is one of the most inspired techno records in recent memory.
Kaliber: “16.2” (Kaliber 16, 2007)
Some unsung techno magic by John Dahlbäck under his mysterious Kaliber moniker. Best listened to with some patience, as it takes its time to more fully form. It’s worth the wait!
Cassegrain: Tiamat (Prologue)
With Tiamat, the duo of Alex Tsiridis and Hüseyin Evirgren have crafted a nice suite of minimal, buoyant techno tracks that would make the Basic Channel crowd proud. “Taiga” kicks things off with a great, dense underwater track, recalling the finer aquatic moments of Drexciya’s later material but with the poise and flow of vintage Porter Ricks. “Joule” picks up the pace considerably with a faster clip and more crisp sounds, all anchored by a hypnotic, endless bassline loop and overhead drones and overtones. The title track falls somewhere in between these aesthetics, with an urgency in its arrangement but with a confident and patient stride to propel it forward. For the most part, Tiamat oscillates between this dubbier, slower pace and something more alert and spry, with punchier and more immediate arrangements that rely less on delay and reverb for atmosphere. “Task” is such a case, with a layer of hiss to provide some added bite while bleeping patterns loop over a relentless kick drum. Fans of Sandwell District are definitely likely to approve, with each of these 6 tracks sounding as good on headphones as they no doubt would on a huge system.
Killawatt: Opposing Rhetoric Part 1 & Part 2 (Osiris UK)
Killawatt, aka Matthew Watt, has been cranking out records steadily since 2011. After digging his collaborations with Ipman I picked up this 2-parter which is easily his strongest material I’ve heard yet. The first half leans more toward deep, clear bass music, full of staggered kicks, dub decay, and a sinister low end. Intro “Two Curious Gypsies” sets the stage nicely as an ambient prologue to “Static Tension“‘s deep, plodding halfbeat. It’s a pressure cooker of a track, starting off quietly and then building until it heaves with a snarly bass synth and ominous effects. “Unit 51” is the more spry companion, with a staggered kick/snare combo that maneuvers around syncopated chords and huge reverb trails.
Part 2 is the leaner, meaner sister, with 3 fully formed dark techno tracks that pulse in a more typical 4/4 fashion. All three of them would sound right at home on Sandwell District, with a big warehouse sound and distortion in the details. “Black Air” broods with intensity, a steady kick with supporting shakers and syncopation holding it steady while gloomy synths loom overhead like a vulture. The drum tracks get more aggressive as it goes on, upping the intensity over time. “Art of Discourse” continues with the techno slant, slightly less ominous than its predecessor but no less functional for the ‘floor. But the clear standout for both records is “Reactive Technique,” a repetitious techno track with detailed percussion and a completely infectious portamento synth lead that repeats throughout, only changing via modulation and loudness. It recalls the minimal, gradual shapeshifting of Richard James’s AI incarnation, Polygon Window (which is never a bad thing!).
The two separate releases really work together quite well as a pair, touching on multiple sides of darker dance music and showing off Watt’s versatility as a producer. These two distinctly different releases tie into the title effortlessly, two opposing sounds that complement each other to make for a compelling whole. He’s a talent to watch; highly recommended.
Orbital: “Satan” (III, 1991)
"And by the way, if you see your mom this weekend, would you be sure and tell her…"
Physical Therapy: Whitelabel (Grizzly)
Physical Therapy is an act about which I know very little, outside of the obvious reference points on Discogs and what not. This four-tracker on Sinden’s Grizzly imprint sounds like a love letter to 90s dance music and rave culture, only reinterpreted through a distorted or fish-eye lens. “Whitelabel” is a joyous pseudo-rave anthem, with its buoyant, unchanging bassline and strange happy house chords that are filtered to give them a shifty, unusual quality. Add in some wailing vocal samples and it’s a full-on party track, albeit one that skews left of center.
"Rolling on Sunday" continues the trend, although its rhythm section is more crisp while synth oscillators swoop up and down in each channel. Halfway through, pitch-bent chords resonate overhead, lightening the vibe into something more party-like in contrast with the slightly darker sound of the arrangement that precedes. "That Horn Track" is again an oddly joyous dancefloor number; its reverbed melodic hook is complemented well by a goofy, squiggly acid bassline that is undeniably fun. The mix of reverb, less typical drum sounds, and nostalgic convention (particularly the happy house chords and acid touches) works well in feeling simultaneously nostalgic and slightly off-kilter, yet still functional for a dancefloor. Nautiluss contributes a remix of "Whitelabel" to round it out, ditching most of the sensibility of the original and instead infusing it with airy pads and breaks that feel nostalgic in their own right, touching on early breakbeat and jungle but adhering to a four-to-the-floor mid-tempo format.
It’s a handsome addition, albeit a more sedate one, to a rousing grouping of tracks that demonstrate a nice combination of nostalgia, humor, playfulness, and leftfield sounds.
Ipman: Persistent Dread / Signal Motion (Osiris Music)
Killer, dark bass music from up and comer Ipman. This is the first solo music I’ve heard from him, having enjoyed his collaborations with Killawatt. Both tracks here break the mold of dubstep and techno and instead settle somewhere; in this case, in contrast with his Tempa 12” earlier this year, I’d say it leans more toward techno than dub or dubstep, though he continues with a keen focus on massive low end. “Persistent Dread” lives up to its name with a relentless and claustrophobic rhythm section, arranged under squirmy, syncopated patterns.
"Signal Motion" juxtaposes a twitchy, scattered break against wobble bass and skittery rhythm flourishes to great effect, referencing cliches of a few genres but integrating them in a way that feels distinctly current.
His style is pretty grim, but I find it to be a really slick hybrid of all of the best elements of minimal techno, dubstep, and bass music. Recommended listening.