Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Velo di Maya

“Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.” - Andrei Tarkovsky

The Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky wasn't a man in a rush to say what he wanted to say. Known for a spiritual approach to long takes in film, he played with the audience's patience to produce challenging works of fucking immense beauty. There's a scene in his late film Nostalghia where a 9 minute single take follows the protagonist as he repeatedly walks from one side of an abandoned pool to the other while trying to keep a candle still lit. It's a moment on character redemption, a pilgrimage of sorts. The camera follows him without any breaks and as a viewer watching this it gives of the feeling of stasis. If you hold your concentration on this scene, it seems to transcend time and hold you in a fixed point through repetition and gradual changes in the shot. My ability to critically access film is limited to drunken meanderings about the humanization of HAL in 2001, but I think this scene is a brilliant visual reference as to how the music of Italian maestros Voices from the Lake works.

Their third EP and fourth release overall has come out on the New York based in house party label The Bunker. Culled from the live set that appropriately fucked with everyone's mind, body and soul, it's a three track ep of psychedelic, voodoo techno. This is music that makes time stand still. The progressions on these songs are so gradual and carefully composed that it feels like these tunes are static, locked in a certain point in time. There is no intro or outro, beginning or ending. They fade in and out like you're only listening to a tiny part of a much greater whole. Voices from the Lake have become known for their infamous extended live sets, some lasting up to 5 hours. These cuts sound like they were exquisitely curated from a section of time in one of these extended jams.  Listening to these in a pitch black room can give the feeling of floating and sensory disengagement.


There are certain words I told myself not to use in this article. Trance, headfuck, Labyrinth. They've become synonymous for what these Italians do. But the actual music is so much more than those signifiers. Yes, it has certain sensibilities with the early 90s trance scene. Yes is does fuck with your head. And yes Dozzy is the famous resident of the Japanese festival Labyrinth. All those things that are superficial writing toppings don't grasp just exactly what this music can do. It seems to come from the air to cut through time and release hedonistic moments of liminality. This is ritualistic music. The clue is in the release title Velo di Maya that translates as the Veil of Maya. This is techno music that references ancient civilizations, providing clues about where this music comes from and how to approach it. Think about the artist name as well, 'Voices from the Lake'. Plenty of artists have names that reference the natural world, but not many seem so apt at describing the music underneath. This is music that manages to sound simultaneously ancient and contemporary. I previously wrote about Kobosil's excellent start to the year and when you look at both of these artists, it's silly how far ahead they are from anyone else making techno at the moment (bar people like Marco Shuttle and PVH). There's a great deal of good, adequate beats being made but very few sound as fresh and shockingly new as what these talented producers are doing.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kobosil

'It feels so much the emotion, the feeling of the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days, without resembling those gone moments' - Shed (2008)
 
Back in 2008 when those words rose out of dusty noise, it was referencing how the classic sound of techno was influencing a new wave of producers, the 'Berghain Generation'. At the time the sound was so fresh and unique, re-framing the classic techno signifiers of the original Belleville Three through the early millennial bug of minimal. But after a while, as all new ideas eventually do, it became stagnant through a wave of second rate copycats and bland rehashing of old ideas. The originals like Marcel Dettmann, Marcel Fengler and Ben Klock have never verged into mediocrity themselves, but the influx of stale, tepid atmospheric techno songs that have flooded record shops over the past few years have dulled the energy that this music had 6 years ago. However it's not all bad news for drone based, echo laded techno fans. A German producer by the name of Kobosil has been releasing some of the most mind bending, twisted sonics of recent memory that seems like as much of an update of the 'Berghain sound' as that was to the classic, Detroit sounds. As a harder, noiser strain (that seems to give a massive fucking middle finger to those most horrible of qualities like subtlety and dynamics) has become more fashionable in recent times, Kobosil's take on stripped back, flat techno is even more welcome. After having released his debut ep on the Ostgut Ton affiliated sister label Unterton, he starts 2014 off with the 10th release for Marcel Dettmann's boutique label MDR.
 
 
Kobosil songs have a very specific, almost robotic style groove to them and it's a testament to how far developed the new producer is that he already has such an individual sound. They seem to replicate the main room thump that classic Dettmann and Klock tunes had (think Subzero or Corebox) but with various quirks and twists that are like a knowing wink to the heads. Take the opening track Ein for example. The kick is laden with heavy reverb tails that would fill a cavernous room, but it seems to be hesitant, playing with the listeners expectation of where it should and shouldn't be. Kobosil was previously criticized for a lack of humour in his music (as if that's a necessary quality), but this song shows how he can play with the form and in a way satirize the deluge of echo laded, drone shit that has become the unwanted noumenon of contemporary techno. The second tune Asle is the hardest cut on here and sounds like it was taken straight from the mix of a peak time set. It has the same momentum and vigour as a techno DJ spinning to an energetic crowd at silly hours in the morning. At just over 4 minutes long it's much shorter than this kind of music tradionally is, but it manages to strip down and distill the essence of classic Osgut Ton tunes into it's pragmatic time limit. Like Ein, this is a tune made by someone who knows his history and wants to show it. This is postmodern techno. There's enough knowing signifiers on the release here for people in the know to recognize, but it still bangs hard enough that any of these tunes would kill a dancefloor. The next three tracks carry on in a similar vein, each one seeming like updated versions of the different forms that this style of music can take. The last cut (a beatless, downtempo number) leaves the EP off with a satisfying sense of closure after five tracks of mind fucking grooves. This release and his previous ones are some of the most complete and forward looking techno of recent memory that is an example of how this music should and could be done. If this is anything to go by, Kobosil is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable producers of the moment.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

There's A Crack In Everything


 Back in the ancient years of 2012 before your grandmother's dentist had heard of L.I.E.S and 'outsider house' was just a description of where you parked your car when visiting your sister, an album called Cruise Forever came out on Public Information that still remains an oddity of fuzzed out, transnational grooves. It showed much promise for an artist who could of easily capitalized on the hype and press that he got at the time but instead chose a completely different path, one of complete silence. While the rest of the world caught up with the sound and turned the esoteric into the norm, Cesaer seemed to have been skulking away, waiting for the right moment to return. It's welcome news then to see then that he starts 2014 with only his second ever release. There's A Crack In Everything is a three tracker released on Anthony Naple's blooming young label Prohibito. It further develops Cesaer's idiosyncratic sound and sees him toying with a fucked up take on sultry house music.

Over these three tracks he seems to deconstruct soulful, deep house with heavy emphasis on looping and EQing as an instrument. The music sounds like a fusion between the cracked soundscapes of people like Actress and Bandshell with the broken house of Detroit wizards like Theo Parrish and Kyle Hall. Yep is a fragment of a song that sounds like a DJ taking out the low end, working the crowd for a drop that never comes. It's a piece that works with suspense in the same way that classic Errorsmith tunes did, by contradicting your expectations of where the music is going to go. Slink is a blissed out piano number with loops that seem to slowly flow in and out of sync with each other, but still manage to remain in a kind of messed out harmony. The tune is encased in an Eternal Sunshine style hypnagogia and is reminiscent of a broken memory of a partly remembered house tune of which only the main melody can be recalled. The last tune 1 Year is the most dancefloor friendly cut. It features a main vocal lick that manages to be both uplifting and incredibly sad and seems to recall that bittersweet feeling of a closing tune. Even though this is only Cesaer's second release, it already shows an artist who has developed a recognizable sound and leaves much promise for what hopefully will be a more productive year for release schedule.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Healing Music of Rana


Brian Eno famously stated in his manifesto for ambient music that it should work both in the background and foreground, as ignorable as it is interesting. Rarely does this ideal ever become a strong reality, with ambient music often choosing a side rather than trying to attain both. This compilation released on tropical outsider Sun Araw's excellent imprint Sun Ark completely understands this idea, whether intentionally or not. It's 4 volume tape package of the complete works of American professor and new age musician Randall McClellan. The Healing Music of Rana is nearly three hours of wonderful new age that fits in perfectly with the contemporary trend for far out, cosmic synth music. All of this music was recorded between 1977 and 1983 and it's a testament to McClellan how well it's aged. Unsurprisingly, he was interested in altered states of mind and mystic teachings. You get the feeling from this music that he was making it in order to connect back with oneself and enter a state of complete peace.Whether you believe or practice that kind of thing doesn't really matter when you listen to this music, because like the best ambient works it can completely relax and calm you. The closest modern artist that shares similarities with this music is probably the shut eyed drones of Stars of the Lid. This is music that requires patience. McClellan slowly and carefully transverses between moods and tones, contrustructing miniature universes in each song. If you're into people like Pulse Emitter and Motion Sickness of Time Travel, this is one that you shouldn't miss.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Chart


Architectural - Architectural 05 [Architectural]
Juan Rico is by no means a newcomer to the scene. He's been releasing techno music since 2003 and has seen through many different trends and styles within techno music but it feels like he's come of age in the past few years. His 12"s both as Reeko and Architectural have been outstanding recently with the highlight being his double alias full length The Blue Album last year. An hour of exquisite sound design and techno composition it was one of the highlights in a year when techno felt particularly drab and stagnant with the return to a more aggressive, harder sound. His alias Architectural has showcased his (slightly) more restrained side to his productions, specializing in a kind of beefed up dub influenced techno (but this is by no means a Chain Reaction worshiping copycat). His release under that alias for Svreca's Semantica imprint was one of the finest techno double trackers of recent memory Rico starts off 2014 with the fifth release of the self titled series and it's a three tracker of glacial synths, dubby warmth and expert sound curating. The tunes seem to get progressively harder as the release goes on. The first cut is a beatless soundscape with a reese like baseline that threatens to break into something bigger but somehow stays restrained. The second one is a piece of dubbed out techno that uses the main chords in a way that sounds like they've come straight from a Levon Vincent tune. The last one is the most dance floor friendly with a pulsating, whirling main synth that propels the song like a psychedelic helicopter.


DJ Spider & Franklin de Costa - Genetically Modified Tracks [Killekill]
New York based DJ Spider has been releasing more collaborations than solo efforts recently, exploring the possibilities that lay within combining two different artistic approaches. His career has felt very much like an exploration. DJ Spider tracks are like experiments into dance music form by exploring, testing and pushing the boundaries of what's feasible. His Plan B imprint has long been a bastion for challenging house and techno with releases from various American artists that are seeking to change the norm. This one is a joint effort between the man himself and German producer Franklin de Costa and what they've come up with are four slices of rough and tumble house. Each cut has a sense of play in how they approach rhythm. The beats are still four to the floor, but they place various twitches and quirks in the music. An off beat hat, a sudden stab of a conga, stuttering kicks. The rhythm constantly threatens to trip itself over, yet they manage to keep the whole thing cogent. When combined with the idiosyncratic sounds on top (the screeching noises, threatening vocal samples and heavy bass) the effect is enthralling and shows two producers at the top of their game.


Edanticonf- The Boundary of Nowhere Land [Silent Season]
Canadian imprint Silent Season has long been flying the flag for the best that contemporary dub techno can offer. They have an exquisitely curated roster of artists that have consistently maintained a high quality approach to organic electronic music that blurs the boundaries between house, techno and ambient. They've been active since 2007 but it seems that the past two years they've made a big step and started a kind of renaissance period for this niche of music. They provided two of the highlights of 2013 with incredibly beautiful full lengths from Segue and ASC and they start off 2014 in similar style. Edanticonf has previously released an album on Silent Season back in 2012 that was an hour or so of techno music that sounded like it came from the forest. The Boundary of Nowhere Land continues along this path. It's an exhilarating mix of soft percussion, dubbed out chords and Namlook inspired ambient curiosities. These elements are combined together to create a completely immersive and tripped out landscape. Wolfgang Voigt spoke about doing hallucinogenics and tripping out in the German forests and you get the sense that this it what those journeys might of sounded like. This is a great four tracker that's great for quiet contemplation at home, but would also add something special to adventurous selectors looking to make people's night a bit more special.


Escape Force - Confused House 4 [Confused House]
Confused House is a boutique label set up by L.I.E.S affiliate and all round badman Steve Summers last year and have released a string of collaborations between him and  fellow compatriot Bookworms. The music so far has been a broken version of a kind of analogue dub house. The songs are ghosted fragments of lost house tunes, like a liquid emulsion print on a piece of torn fabric. Their most recent effort and the 4th in the series is a collaboration between those two and Terreke released under the name Escape Force. Muffled would be a good adjective to describe this music. The songs sound like they're underwater, floating in an aquatic tripped out haze. You can hear Terreke's influence most obviously on the first cut. The whole song sounds like an extended outtake from his amazing 12" from last year YYYYYYYYYY. The second tune is a little more in focus, with strange acid lines and broken orchestral samples that could of come straight from a Caretaker song. The last cut is by far the strangest tune on this release (and that's no small feat). With a kick that glides in and out of pitch and a strange warbling main line it feels like these 3 artists are deconstructing house music to see how far out you can go without verging into straight ambiance.


Eshu - Chlore [Eshu]
Eshu is a Dutch production team and label that have a rotating cast of four members. As a label they release music from different collaborations between these four members under various aliases. Under the Eshu name however, is when it's all four of them together. The music they release is a trippy, slow burning version of techno who's nearest comparisons would be the psychedelic landscapes of Prologue or the intricate delicacies of Frozen Border. Chlore is their release to kick off 2014 and it's four cuts of cosmic, hazy techno that have enough quirks and turns in them to make it stand out from the deluges of similar music. Cesium is a fragile, spaced out number with high frequency main pads that sound like electronic raindrops that get progressively more layered and interesting as the song develops. Sulfur is a harder tune with a deep pulsating bass and tension building synths in the background. The song completely changes half way through when arpeggiated synths come rising out, shining rays of light over the darkness. Mercury is the straightest, most 'Berghain' tune of the release and the hardest cut on here. A strong, stoic kick is balanced by a tripped out, metronomic synth line that twists and turns throughout the seven minutes. All the elements in this tune are finely balanced to harness the psychoactive and mind loosening effects that these sounds can have and the result is stunning. The last tune and title cut Chlore is the strangest one of the four. A whirling, machine line bass seems to furl over itself as various tape drenched sound effects swirl over the top. The whole song sounds like the engine of a factory working in complete harmony.


Juju & Jordash - Waldorf Salad [Dekmental]
Live improvisation and dance music is something that on paper should be like jam and bees. The Reichian quality of club music often cries out for extended jams that is highlighted by the on-the-fly aspect of DJing. But often artists go too far down the rabbit hole than is interesting and live improv can often lead audiences cold and detached from the artists. House legends Juju & Jordash don't make that mistake. Their live performances can be at best transcendent and as part of Magic Mountain High with Move D they create a kaleidoscope sound scape of quirky, leftfield house. (their Live at Freerotation album on Workshop is worth checking out if you're want to hear them at their full powers). They start off 2014 with a release for regular collaborators Dekmental with a double tracker of their strange and eclectic style of house music. Waldorf Salad is a spacey jam with flowing synths and squelchy beeps and bloops, underpinned by a rugged groove underneath. Third Planet from Altair has a tougher beat but once again aims for the night sky. Heavy 909s, fluttering chords and stepping hats create this locked, ethereal bounce that's sure to send you into a dizzy state of pleasure at 5 in the morning. On these two cuts you can imagine the duo locked in their studio at the early hours of the morning, playing with their collection of esoteric sound machines churning out weird house music like mad scientists.


Scape One - Planetoid [brokntoys]
Contemporary electro never seems to get the kind of press it deserves. Outside a select group of producers (Gerald Donald, Stingray, Drexciya reissues), a lot of artists seem to get overlooked in the flood of reviews and features that scour music websites. It's a big collective misstep as some of the most enthralling and original music being made at the moment are by these seemingly crazy artists, tinkering away with their machines and create sonics that are as unholy as they are beautiful. Scape One is a big name in the British underground electro scene with releases going back over a decade. His first release of 2014 Planetoid sounds like it's been beamed from a far away planet and interfered with by cosmic radiation. Each of those four cuts are tinged with cosmic synths and heavenly bleeps that can either be bringers of darkness or tear jerking lightness depending on your mood. The pick of the bunch has to be the last cut Right Acension. A slow moving groove is layered by jazzy licks, melancholic drones and some of the most interesting sound design that you'll hear all year. A trip to the cosmos and back again, Planetoid is something that you should check out if you want to hear something a bit different from the fashionable norm at the moment.

Monday, 3 March 2014

La Selva


 'The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country.' - Werner Herzog

One of the most interesting reissues of the year so far that has unfairly slipped under the radar a bit is Francisco Lopez's classic La Selva. Originally released in 1997, La Selva is just over an hour of field recordings of a tropical rain forest in the Caribbean. The always on point imprint Sub Rosa have specialized in early electronics and experimental sound pieces so it makes complete sense for them to reissue La Selva. It's an astonishing work made completely out of the sounds of nature and a masterclass of sound recording and composition. Field recordings at best not only record sonically the sounds of the original location, but capture the very essence of what it's like to be there. There's a reason that nature documentaries record the sounds separately to the footage and artificially place them over the final film. Through using microphones that give audiophiles shameful wet dreams, Lopez recreates an immersive, humid and dangerous environment for you to completely lose yourself in. It deserves an intense, concentrated listen to fully grasp what Lopez achieved with this release. There are moments in the album where the sounds seem to ascend from their original source material into a pure musical piece. Crickets, insects, monkey calls and bird song make it sound at points like a snippet from a Ligeti or Penderecki work,. At other points the extreme sound of torrential rain verges nearly into pure noise in the Keven Drumm sense. This is not a relaxing meditation tape for you to contemplate the ramifications of the zero point or find yourself in the dregs of a vanilla and chi tea. It's a dark, twisted journey through the very bowls of the rainforest, that while at times can allude an illusion of peace and harmony, is mainly claustrophobia and humid darkness. For anyone interested in the possibilities of field recordings or wants something a bit off the radar to give your time to, this is one that you shouldn't miss.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Tapes


Alis - Things Next Door [Astro:Dynamics]
Alis first came to my attention through her excellent release Azimuth on the leftfield British house label Don't Be Afraid. It was a collection of synth drenched floor ready beats with her voice being the stand out instrument. Noted Creme affiliated artist D'Marc Cantu was the single remixer on that release, indicative of the direction that Alis was aiming for. Her next and most recent release for Astro:Dynamics is a completely different batch of sonics. With the exception of her vocals, it isn't even recognizable as being produced by the same artists. This one is an eyes down, heady set of ambient pop that's closer to the works of electronic songstresses like Julianna Barwick and Tropic of Cancer. Through use of loop pedals these works have a much looser and more improvised feel than her previous works. 11 utilizes short cut up loops of her vocals that sound like the destroyed, ghosted remnants of a forgotten techno anthem. 020 and Leslape refine her vocals into an instrumental quality and smear any vocabulary into an ethereal mush. The last cut Things Next Door takes things even further into pure abstraction that transforms her voice into phonetic drone.



Blue Krishna - Repeat Until Death [Nostilevo]
A product of the sun caked mush that is the LA underground tape scene, Repeat Until Death combines Sun Araw's distorted tropical heat with PiL's death disco. Nostilevo are one of the most interesting tape labels based in Los Angeles, churning out a series of noisey, degraded wave inspired music that uses the intrinsic sound qualities of tapes to amplify the experience of the music. I got the feeling that Blue Krishna's effort wouldn't be as interesting if it were better produced, but that's not to say that the music is of a sub standard quality underneath all the noise. Rather, in composing the tunes they had this very specific medium in mind and wrote around the boundaries, playing up to the strengths that are possible within tape releases. Repeat Until Death is a collection of post-punk inspired electronics that begs to be heard out of a blown out second rate car system while driving down a sunset, palmed tree laden drive intoxicated by Malibu, amphetamines and rotten coconuts. Reverberated vocals are combined with heavily over driven electronics and a tape hiss that sounds like it was compressed specifically to add an extra layer of murkiness throughout the whole thing. If you're into the Minimal Wave label or classic Olde English Spelling Bee records, this one is for you.



Cane Swords - Temple Swords [Field Hymns]
Featuring one of the best album covers I've seen all year, Temple Swords is a bonkers piece of cosmic synth music from the Field Hymns tape label.The first cut Tempel Travel Thugee seems to batter and ruin your mind, refreshing your inner pallet so it can rebuild it up again with the relatively quieter vibes of the next few tracks. The fact that the word Temple is in the album title should be a clue about how to approach this release. It's one of ritual and liminality. This is music for holistic introspection and contemplation, a way to think about life and the perception of ourselves. A lot of modern synth music is in the tradition of the best new age music of old that aimed for relaxation and meditation. This seems to aim more for the kind of cosmic komische music that was more intrusive in it's intention, think Irrlicht era Klaus Schulze. It's music to listen to in the pitch black and give your full intention to, not one to quietly cat nap while it's playing at a neighbor friendly volume on speakers stained by incense and lemongrass. This is the dark shit and it invites you inside.


My Panda Shall Fly - Higher [Sonic Router]
Sonic Router have long been a gold mine for the best that British inspired dance music has to offer and has since expanded into a label that has continued a similar musical aesthetic that they comment on as a website. They have a nack for seeing the potential in lesser known artists and given them a podium to showcase their work. Some of the most interesting artists working at the moment (Archie Pelago, Wanda Group and October for example) were all bigged up by them at early points in their career. It feels like they've caught another one with Higher, the fourth release by London's own Suren Seneviratne aka My Panda Shall Fly and it's is a wicked 6 tracker of techno inspired beat music. It has a similar vibe and sound to the music that the Brainfeeder label churns out but glazed through the Actress soaked haze of 4am South London. Sonic Router couldn't of picked a better medium to release this music on because the analogue warmth of tape hiss perfectly suits the ramshackle style of the beats. Seneviratne encourages a sloppy rhythm and lets the music seemingly fumble over each other. This is confirmed by the standout cut Crac, a song that's crying out for some bars by wonky bars DOOM.


Pulse Emitter - Equinox [Constellation Tatsu]
Pulse Emitter has consistently been one of the most talented and interesting producers making the kind of closed eyes, early morning komische music that has thankfully made a big resurgence over the past decade. With countless releases on various formats he's earned his soporific stripes and can now be filed under that enviable category 'buy on sight'. His most recent release for the always excellent Constellation Tatsu imprint is unsurprisingly a beauty. With five cuts that indulge in the kind of ambiance that he's become known for, it's a perfect wistful journey that could send you to sleep like a baby or wake you up in that early hour of the morning where everything seems like it has a deeper, existential meaning underneath. Equinox is part of Tatsu's winter batch along with some lovely releases by Hakobune and MJ Guider that are as worthy of your special time as this one.

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Ten Best: Prologue


Munich based label Prologue are at the forefront of contemporary techno. They have built a back catalog of some of the most forward thinking and influential techno of recent memory, that ranges from the tribalisms of Dino Sabatini to the dark minimalism of Milton Bradley and the effervescent kaleidoscope of work that Donato Dozzy & Neel have produced as Voices from the Lake. The sound that Prologue have become known for has it roots in the much discussed but little known Italian scene, with legendary acidic pioneers such as Lory D and Leo Anibaldi has touchstones. Since the label's inception in 2008 their roster of artists have become truly international with artists from America (Mike Parker), Sweden (Abdulla Rashim) and Finland (Samuli Kemppi), showing that psychedelia in techno can be universal. The hit to miss ratio of their full lengths is without peer, and their 12" schedule consistently breaks new ground, showcasing new directions and forms in techno.

 

The Prologue sound fits in loosely with the minimalist, forward thinking production that has become a hallmark of modern techno. Inspired by collectives like Sandwell District who forged a path of cold, post-punk inspired darkness with a clinical and pointillist approach to found design, Prologue takes the base root idea but drenches it in an organic, warmer sound that begs to be heard blasting out in strange, lost mountain forest. Like Sandwell District who's manifesto was to update the classic, harder techno sound of the 90s, Prologue updates the trippier, heady vibes of people like Emmanual Top, Heiko Laux and Consumed era Plastikman. 2009 was their breakout year that was highlighted when RA editor Todd Burns profiled them as part of their label of the month feature. In 2012 the full length by Donato Dozzy & Neel Voices From The Lake topped many end of year charts that cemented their reputation as one of the most important labels of the time. Now in 2014 with the rise and abundance of a noise influenced, heavier sound tipped by producers like AnD and Karenn, Prologue's calm and considered approach seems even more refreshing and vital. In this feature, I run down 10 of the best cuts from a label that is full of potential highlights.

10. Echologist - Head On (2013) The Mechanics Of Joy   




For an artist that has become known for dub-tech, inward looking productions, Head On is surprisingly hard territory. The opening track of Echologist's debut release for Prologue leaves all sense of Chain Reaction idealizing at the door and replaces it with a peak time dance floor banger. Heavy subs beg you to turn your speakers up to ear damaging volumes and synths that sound like an artificial forest after dark, it's a bold new direction from Moeller. Complete with kicks that avoid a metronomic  4x4 beat, it's an impressive tune that manages to fit in with the Prologue sound but still retains a sense of individuality that sounds like nothing else in their catalog.

9. Lena Deen - Sleep Don't Come Easy (2012) Sleep Don't Come Easy


One of the most sonically isolated tunes that Prologue have ever released, Sleep Don't Come Easy is an interesting curiosity. The song starts off pleasingly enough with deep, heady drones and tension building hats. Then seemingly out of nowhere a breakbeat comes in. It's a startling, unexpected moment that sounds like a cross-pollination between a Dozzy and a Burial tune. Choral voices that were restrained in the back enter the foreground and turn the beat underneath into something more grandiose. As the opening track on Lena Deen's debut release, it leaves little doubt that this girl has a promising career ahead of her and one to watch for the future.

8. Cassegrain - Hyena (2012) Coptic


The third cut by British duo Cassegrain on their second release for Prologue explores how the territory between beats can be just as effective in peak time floor damage. A kick that hits every other beat and sounds like it comes straight out of a Kangding Ray tune is combined with short bursts of sub bass that make the song sound like it's traveling in slow motion. Complete with whistles, chirping crickets, noises that sounds like marbles rolling, stepping hats and warbling background drones, this tune is one of the finest that Cassegrain has ever produced and a near perfect distillation of what makes the duo so great.

7. Milton Bradley - Somewhere Beyond My Illusion (2010) The Unheard Voice From Outer Space


For a label that has become known for restrained minimalism, being one of the most stripped down songs in their discography is no small feat. Bridging the gap between ambient music and techno, Milton Bradley creates a dark and looming atmosphere that is almost militaristic in it's conservatism. Stripping back everything to their bare essentials, he creates an cosmic void of destroyed spaceships and broken stars. Apocalyptic drones are paired with a drenched, bass heavy kicks that combine to produce an effect of claustrophobic weightlessness. Sounding like Mundus Subterraneus era Lightwave but with a beat, if you ever feel yourself leaning towards the dark side, this is the perfect soundtrack to your twisted fantasies.

6. Claudio PRC - Nur (2013) L Synthesis


Claudio PRC is one of the finest artists to gain a following through Prologue. He specializes in producing psychedelic, heady techno that's at the darker end of the spectrum. Unlike a lot of producers who tread similar ground, he always leaves a sense of levity and playfulness in his tunes. The first half of Nur could easily have a similar vibe to the previous Milton Bradley tune were it not for the bounce and groove that he adds in the bass line and acidic synth washes over the top that sound like a beefed up version of Burn era Function. The majority of the song builds tension until finally over 4 minute in, we get the hat that moves the song along to it's final chapter. It's a daring move to leave the percussive higher frequencies until near the end of the song but one that adds context to the starkness of the first half.

5. Dino Sabatini - Ceto (2010) Daughter of Phorsys Recall  

 
Dino Sabatini has become known for tribalistic, poly-rhythmic techno that combines psychoactive sounds with bouncing, stepping beats. That this 2012 album got overshadowed a bit by the Voices From The Lake album was always a bit unfair as I've thought those albums are two sides of the same coin. They both explored the emotional quality that repetition and slow building music can have when used effectively. But whereas Dozzy & Neel aimed for an introspective, organic path, Sabatini went further down the rabbit hole into darker liminal grounds. This cut of his earlier 12" is prophetic of the sound he would develop. Sounding like something Pangaea might play in his recent sets full of 'bouncy' techno, it's a thrilling, heart racing journey from start to finish that would wreck any open minded crowd willing to completely immerse themselves.

 4. Iori - Lapis 3 (2011) Lapis  


Whereas Sabatini works with the ritualistic side of voodoo techno, Iori has always dealt at the psychedelic, mind expanding end. Often he deals in pure sound, exploring how the relationship between different timbrel qualities can create feelings of disassociation and mind expansion. All ranges of frequencies are perfectly in harmony. Techno often explores darkness in a cosmic and apocalyptic environment but this one feels like you're diving deep underwater to that place at the bottom of the ocean where sunlight doesn't even reach. It warbles, bubbles, pops, squeaks, wobbles, fizzes and bounces to create a feeling of suffocating floating. With an unexpectedly stepping beat, I'm reminded slightly of Shackleton's more aggressive tunes but influenced more by Tangerine Dream than Muslimgauze. It's also worth noting another tune on this release, Lapis 2 that has a similar feeling of drifting but with a straighter, four to the floor beat underneath.

3. Mike Parker - FWD (Donato Dozzy Mix) (2012) Subterranean Liquid  


What is the  nature of techno? What are it's intrinsic qualities that separate it from other forms of music?  I think that Donato Dozzy and Mike Parker has solved that question better than any essay or book could. This is the distilled essence of techno. When you strip everything back and you leave yourself with only the base structure of techno music, this is what you get. A kick and a sound. This tune is a pure and unadulterated response to meaning within music. Anyone who's ever heard it on a proper system knows the singular effect it can have. It can make a room sound like the air is breaking and thinning with a mastery over the timbrel quality of sound that both Dozzy and Parker have become famous for.

2. Cio D'or - Goldbrokat (2009) Die Faser, Pt. 1

Techno music has never been famous for heart on your sleeve emotional out pourings, even less for decelerations of romance. All this makes the 4th minute of this song even more spine tingling. The song starts off in traditional but accomplished fashion, with an eyes down, voodoo approach to techno that has become so associated with Prologue. After a few minutes the beat goes away and something wonderful happens. Pianos suddenly emerge from the darkness and wash over the song, completely altering the vibe of the tune and showing a level of emotional dexterity in a genre that can too often be cold and sterile. It's a similar trick that old jungle and hardcore tunes used by bringing in female vocals and cheesy pianos that rippled flutters of pleasure through blissed out crowds. Simon Reynolds postulated that the vocals in old hardcore tunes were love poems to ecstasy and that feeling of overwhelming happiness experienced on the drug. This song I think is an ode to that similar feeling but one that's not drug induced, but love induced. As anyone who's been madly in love and had it reciprocated, you'll know how physically overpowering it can be. A healthy, natural rush of serotonin. I don't know if Cio D'or had any of these feelings in mind but that this song has got me thinking about these things is indicative of the power that the second half of this song exudes. One of the true highlights of the past decade in techno music.

1. Voices From The Lake - S.T. (VFTL Rework) (2012) Voices From The Lake  


The song where the melody breaks.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Mixman


Kangding Ray - Secret Thirteen Mix 108
There are various ways to approach a mix. A collection of unreleased material and dubs is a great way to get the listener count in. A showcase for your approach in a club can be the equivalent of a business card, showing punters what they can expect when they hear you play out. Or you can take a more considered, home listening approach and create a mix for people to put on in the background while going about their monotonous, grinding daily chores. Kangding Ray seems to come from a completely different world with one of the most eclectic and eye grabbing track lists you'll see all year. As a brief example that's indicative of the whole mix, the first three tracks goes from African music to the voodoo sounds of Rrose straight into a cut from Bristollian collective Young Echo. The rest of the mix goes through Jon Hassell, Marcel Dettmann, Autechre, and even fits in time for the wail of Drake. It's unlikely you'll here a mix like this for a while.

Kowton - Ilian Tape Podcast Series 010
Kangding Ray's mix approached eclecticism through contrast and difference, Kowton instead looks for similarity. Kowton and the Livity Sound crew have honed a unique take on British dance music that is as indebted to house and techno as it is to soundsystem culture. His mix for the Ilian Tape Podcast Series highlights this by opening with a classic cut from Baby Ford and then proceeding to delve into UK Funky, a L.I.E.S tune and new cuts from himself, A Made Up Sound and Pearson Sound. What's impressive about this mix is that Kowton chooses cuts from a variety of different scenes and places them together into an aesthetic that perfectly fits with the Livity sound. It's also worth checking out this mix just to hear A Made Up Sound's wicked mix of Velez.

Mr Mitch - Dummy Mix 199
I'm by no means an expert on Grime and it's history so I'm not going to try and discuss how Mr. Mitch fits in with that legacy. However, what he and a lot of the current instrumental grime producers have been doing over the past couple years has been something that I've really connected with. This mix featuring tunes from Murlo, Rabit, himself and plenty others. It's a fantastic journey through what was described brilliantly in a recent Quietus interview as 'Grime in Zero-G'.

Peter Van Hoesen - Curle 25 (Continuous Mix)
Back in the grand old days of 2010, techno's own Peter Van Hoesen mixed the 50th mnml ssgs podcast that shined a light on the slower, housier side of his record bag. It's this ground that he treads for this mix celebrating the Curle025 label compilation. While it's a little more beefed up than the ssgs mix, it still shows a more reserved side to Van Hoesen, who's sets can be some of the most intense things you'll here in a club (His 4 and hour recorded mix at Berghain is one of my all time favorites). This one is an hour of classy, expertly curated house, techno and electro featuring Conforce, E.R.P some exclusive edits from the man himself.

Weight & Treble - Electronique 233
Up and coming Italian duo Weight & Treble have recorded the newest Electronique podcast and it's a brilliant collection of synth music, old dub techno and early electronic experiments. The best ambient and beatless mixes manage to put together collections of sounds that perfectly balance and compliment each other. Weight & Treble attain this by curating a selection of idiosyncratic and odd sounds that progressively get heavier until it ends on a surprisingly banging Daphne Oram tune. If you want a mix that surprises and challenges, this is one for you.

DJ TLR - Electronic Explorations 204 'Jungle Mix'
If his guest mix on the Hessle Audio show wasn't enough to proof that TLR's taste are far broader than the kind of weird house & disco that his label Creme Organisation has become synonymous for, here's an 80 minute jungle mix to silence any doubts. The newest installment of Rob Booth's seminal Electroc Explorations podcast series shows the Dutch label boss in top form with a selection that someone like Randall would be proud of. With breakbeats coming back into fashion, this is a excellent mix for someone to get introduced to the history of those sounds.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Broke


Smallville and their associated artists have been churning out quaint deep house cuts for years, honing a unique approach to house music that's as much influence by classic German labels like Dial and Playhouse as they are by people like Theo Parrish and Mike Huckaby. It's this fusion of restrained German minimalism and Detroit soul that has so warmed people to their sound. RVDS' amazing release of sweet, introspective acidic house Moon On Milky Way was one of the highlights of last year, and they've already started 2014 with a fantastic album by STL that I previously discussed here. One of the most prominent artists related to this label is Christopher Rau who's released two albums on the Hamburg based label. He's built a career out of roughed up, soulful house music that's as satisfying for home listening as it is for a sweaty packed club. He starts 2014 off with a release for the young Office label, marking their third release.

Listening to Christopher Rau's release Broke you wouldn't think it's the middle of winter. As I'm writing this the weather is breaking through the number 453 bus outside my window and pouring into my lounge, smothering me with delicious sunlight vibes. I'm halfway through the first cut Mehris Groove and I'm starting to think bees are swarming around my imaginary Pimms. It has a metronomic bounce and tough drum track that completely locks you in, using similar techniques of repetition and hypnotism that most techno capitalizes on. It's got similar vibe to the harder edged tunes that someone like Motor City Drum Ensemble has been putting out. A surprisingly upfront main chord breaks into a jazzy lick half way through in a way that changes the feel of the beat underneath, turning the song into a swirling roller. It's a stand out moment and one that shows the level of understanding that Rau has over house rhythms. The other two cuts on the release go into stranger territory. Title track Broke is a chugging number with licks that threatens to break into something bigger but instead stays restrained to the background. Complete with Parrish-ian hats and a deep, encompassing bass, it shows a more introspective side to Rau's work. The last cut Im Sumpf is a muddy, organic number with distant vocal samples and synthetic bird cries that's a more than satisfying closer to this release.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Black Light Spiral


The influence of Jack Dunning aka Untold over British dance music of the past few years is hard to deny. Creator of some of the most twisted and forward thinking beats of recent memory and head of the influential Hemlock imprint, his legacy is already imprinted in bass warped stone. Tunes like Anaconda and Stop What You’re Doing showed how the slogged dirge of dubstep could have the same rhythmic complexity as old hardcore and jungle (an influence that his guest appearance on the Hessle Audio show last October made crystal). Recently he’s joined the path of people like Blawan and Pariah in leaving the ‘nuum aside and traveling down a twilight road of phat, heavy techno that pounds your body and soul in the same way that Liquid Room era mills used to. Being the patriot that he is, Dunning’s new music isn’t looking overseas for inspiration but aligning himself to a British music lineage that has roots further north. His recent start up Pennyroyal has showcased artists from the harder edge of techno, with ear bleeding noise influenced releases from people like Boner M and ex-junglist J Tijn. All this makes the lead up to Black Light Spiral rather exciting because it feels like Dunning could head in any musical direction for his first full length effort. What we've got is as surprising as it is satisfying.

Before I get on to the rest of the album I want to talk briefly about the state of contemporary techno and it’s position between the past and the future. For a music that’s de facto faceless and theme-less, it seems remarkable that after nearly three decades since the music was originated, it’s as popular and widely talked about as it’s ever been. The Berghain manifesto of ‘true techno music’ that once seemed so fresh has descended into cliches of sub-standard, reverb heavy beats that seem all too hollow outside the infamous, cavernous walls. The clinical, high definition minimal sound pioneered by Robert Henke and late 90s Plastikman has entered into an inverse curve of popularity versus creativity. The music seems split now between the introspective, emotional sound pushed by labels such as Prologue, the dirty distortions of neo-noise techno found in the deep underbelly of Boomkat and the modern-IDM of people like Answer Code Request, Ingio Kennedy and Kangding Ray.  Untold enters this war-in-the-machine state at a pivotal time. As an artist who has a proven track record as a producer, and a widely disparate and eclectic range of musical influences, what can Dunning add to the genre at a time when a strong voice is so sorely needed?

The first thing that’s noticeable is the lack of traditional club friendly material. Doubles is the only tune that could be considered a reasonably easy song to drop in a set, but even this one isn't conventional by any means. Dunning’s take on techno is similar to how he approached dubstep and grime influenced music. He takes musical ideas and conventions that are synonymous with the genre, but choose specific details and pushes them to the complete extreme. Turn of the millennium grime has rhythms that managed to both tighten the chest and bop the head. Anaconda took these two aspects of the music and took them to breaking point. Doubles is a similar response to hard techno with a kick that morphs and folds into the heavy sub bass pulsing underneath. The drum and the bass become two parts of the same sound in an illusion of sonic metamorphosis. A rampant disregard for traditional techno mechanics is a continuing trend throughout Black Light Spiral. 

Dunning attempts to fuse together his previously mentioned influences (jungle, dubstep, grime, techno, noise etc) to create an end product that feels like it could break into anyone of those genres at any point. Sing A Love Song has a deranged vocal sample and a bass that sounds like it's been re-sampled through a distorted tape and then over-driven to 11. The song constantly seems like it's going to break into a rave monster but  instead holds the tension and gives off a paranoia that seems reminiscent of ‘93 darkside before it developed into the gangster rude boy swing of jungle. Elsewhere, album opener 5 Wheels begins proceedings with sirens that are like the coming of post-apocalyptic ghosts complete with fluorescent whistles and rave air horns. Drop It On the One has heavy drones that cut through the tune in missile-esque fashion before dropping into the inevitable explosion that comes near the end of the track, with a gun fingers transition into Kevin Drumm inspired noise. This tune is one of the most successful on the album and is evidence of Untold's experience in sound design curating. 


All these are admittedly great tunes but a full length album needs a mix up of themes and emotions. Luckily, Dunning shows his range with the album’s calmest point, Wet Wool. Traveling in reverse like an extended rewind, it preps the listener for the final half of the album. The only real flat note is the 7 minute Hobthrush which that’s the only tune that’s verges towards pastiche. It’s reminiscent of a diluted and under-produced version of Surgeon's tune Radiance but it’s a worthy experiment and shows how Dunning is still interested in exploring rhythmic complexities within electronic music. The album ends on a high point as you get to the the final track Ion. This cut is proof that the albums strengths lie in his mastery of sound design and taste for balancing eclectic sounds and influences to produce a product that feels very much of the now in the post-everything musical landscape. The lasting impression of this album is how he’s brought in classic ‘nuum signifier's (junglists horns, rudeboy culture, wall shaking bass) into techno and noise music. It's a signal of a new step in Dunning's career that's a move away from the dancefloor into something more cerebral. It's time to stop looking back at tunes like Anaconda and look forward to whichever avenue Untold chooses to wander down.

Ruffhouse


As a born and bred Englishman, it's impossible to escape the looming influence of drum and bass on youth culture. Often the gateway for pimpled faced schoolboys into club culture, it's long been a British institution that's somewhere between David Attenborough and anti-immigration rhetoric. There was a dark point in the mid 00s where it seemed like nothing interesting was happening at 170+ (although under the surface people like Breakage and Paradox were flying the flag for late jungle experimentalism). Then people like ASC, dBridge and Instra:mental came along and brought a mini revolution with the Autonomic sound and the rest, as some say, is history. There has been plenty written about the artistic resurgence of drum and bass so I won't add to that noise, but there's one act that has really impressed me recently.


Hardwax approved Ruffhouse is a trio of producers from Bristol that have carved a niche of deep, stripped back, tribal drum and bass. They produce dark, rolling tunes that all seem like a variation of a base idea, exploring the possibilites within set artistic boundaries. There's a comparison to be made with someone like techno's own Mike Parker. Both specialize in minimalistic, dark beats that are layered with psychedelic sounds over the top that given the right setting, can become completely immersive. There are echos of old Prototype tunes but filtered through the post-Autonomic landscape with a penchant for acute sound design. For a great introduction, I recommend this live recording as hearing these sounds mixed together gives a broader understanding of what these guys are trying to do. This sound is one that perfectly fits with some of the more psychedelic, headfuck ends of the dance spectrum, and if you're into labels like Prologue and Fullpanda, this is definitely one to check out if you want to hear something a bit different.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Mixologist


natural/electronic.system - Clubberia 043 

This ones a few years old but I've probably listen to this more than anything else this week. Natural/Electronic.system are a duo from Napoli that specializes in the kind of psychedelic dance that the Italians have become known for. What we have here is a 2009 recording from their performance at Labyrinth and it's a special one. A collection of deep, hypnotics grooves that flirts smoothly from house into techno and back again, joining the dots in a unique and organic way.

Samuel Kerridge  - 20 Minute Live Set

 
A Fallen Empire was one of my favorite albums of last year so you can imagine how far my pupils dilated when I saw a short preview of what a live Samuel Kerridge performance is going to sound like on the Fabric soundcloud. Kerridge is one of the most interesting artists to traverse the noise/techno landscape that has become inimitable recently. Over the first 10 minutes he brings the beats in and out of focus until the 11th ,when all hell breaks loose with something that sounds like a distorted, fucked up Dino Sabatini tune.

Floating Points  - You're A Melody #2



Floating Points in one of those DJs where you would do incredibly naughty things to get even a tenth of their record collection. When you see him live or listen to a mix, you know as a certainty that you're going to hear things from the musical spectrum that you've never heard before and probably will never hear again. As the name suggests, this is the second long form set of obscure soul that was recorded live at the London institution Plastic People. One to soundtrack a lazy hungover Sunday.

Galcher Lustwerk - Boiler Room


Lustwerk's Blowing Up The Workshop mix quite rightly got a ridiculous amount of press and critical acclaim last year, topping the RA's mix of the year poll. It was a unique hour of silicious house grooves that added a bit of romance to the house scene of the present. This recording of his New York Boiler room is a fine selection of leftfield house, ghetto bangers and Lustwerk's own tunes. Look at all those hats in that room, all those beanies.

Pearson Sound - Solid Steel Radio Show 21/2/2014



Whereas Kennedy's RA mix was an introspective rolling selection of sub bass heavy steppers, this mix is shows a rougher and noisier side of his collection. The interesting aspect about him as a DJ and to a certain extent, the rest of the Hessle crew, is that they manage to tred the fine line between dance floor approachability and chin scratching IDM. Never do the beats feel too complex or testing, yet there never seems to be a standard 4x4 route. Using both expert selection and sequencing, Kennedy manages to turn rhythmically complex beats into muscle twisting stormers. Apparently this one has plenty of unreleased dubs so put your train spotting anorak on to get a preview of where the future is heading for Pearson Sound.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Music From Memory


There's been a plethora of boutique reissue labels over the past few years. It seems that everyday there's a new record being remembered on taste makers such as Boomkat. Press statements like 'A forgotten synth classic made by an obscure Greek composer and his wife's lover from 1981 pressed on hand stamped, 180g, rainbow coloured wax that's been remastered by sonic pixies' has become common language in record shops and the terribly hip. Amongst all this it takes something special for a label to stand out in this noise of heavy vinyl and revisionist memory. Nonetheless there has been a few that have risen above the crowd. What's important, it seems, is for a label to have just as much a sonic aesthetic and identity as if it were releasing new music. Minimal Wave has constantly being on point bringing attention to a selection of genuinely amazing 'wave' associated forgotten classics.  Das Kabinette, The Dadacomputer and their excellent Minimal Wave Tapes compilations have all been highlights worth checking out. A branch of Editions Mego called Recollections GRM have also been of the best with heavy curating on early electronic music from important, experimental musicians such as Bernard Parmegiani and Luc Ferrari. These labels have forged a unique idea of the music that they want to release and how they want to present it that has transferred semantically to the point where it wouldn't be silly to say a Minimal Wave-eque record or a GRM-esque record (although you should never actually say that to anyone in real life conversation).


The Dutch label Music From Memory have only released two records so far. Their first one was released in April of last year and the second at the arse end of 2013 or the start of 2014 depending on your chosen retailer. It might seem unfair to place this label in the same territory as the two previously mentioned greats as they haven't had a proper chance yet to showcase their consistency. However, if the two compilations they have released is anything to go by, expect big things in the future from them. They have already created for themselves an individual sound and aesthetic that has coherency, from the sounds to the presentation. The music seems both incredibly old and contemporary, especially when compared with the blossoming synth and bedroom pop music that have been ubiquitous over the last decade. Leon Lowman's Liquid Diamonds is a charming collection of surf and ocean inspired synth funk that seems to out chillwave (remember that?) artists like Washed Out and Ducktails. Their recent release by Gigi Mason entitled The Word Love is an amorous wash of heady ambiance and new age that would easily fit in with the discographies of people like Oneothrix Point Never and Pulse Emitter. While the noun bandwagon and the verb jumping could dismissively be used by a lazy commentator, this music and what this label is doing is genuinely adding something to the current scene by shining on a light on two forgotten artists and presenting them in a way that could only be described as cared for. I'm excited to see where this label goes next and if you're at all interested in this style of music, so should you.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Earworm


When I started to write this post I originally had it in the same format as I did last time. But as the amount of music that I wanted to talk about just started getting bigger and bigger, I decided it would be easier to split it into different sections under some frankly brilliant and google worthy headlines. In no way am I trying to create the next outsider house or post-dubstep or catgaze or melon wave. They're purely functional phrases; a necessary evil that you should never use or say to anyone (You'll sound ridiculous). As I started to categorise the different music that have been doing it for me, I started to realize that this method was indicative of a wider journalistic issue at the moment. There are hundreds of micro-scenes and micro-genres and a lot of them are purely fictional creations of a journalist that are purely imagined for an easy headline. In Sophie's World the Dad thought his imaginary creatures into being, and in a similar way journalists are all too quick to lump music together that have come from completely disparate parts of the world and place them together under a two word header. Outsider house, for example, was originally a tongue-firmly-in-cheek-term created by Ben UFO that he has since distanced himself from (sensible man). It has now become a much abused part of the lexicon. When looked at Hardwax, for example, that phrase lumps together labels as wide and disparate as Perlon, Trilogy Tapes, Sahko, Smallville, Rush Hour, Idle Hands, Morphine and plenty others. How can some of the most well respected and popular underground house labels be defined as outsider? So in the spirit of this wonderful nonsense, I present to you 3 catchy headers and plenty of lovely music. 
Anthropological Trippers

Afterhours - Lowlife [Not Not Fun]



Not Not Fun has consistently been one of the most interesting labels of the past few years, releasing a diverse range of music from some of the most interesting contempoary artists. A recent release by Afterhours is indicative of the eclecticism of the label as a whole. Lowlife is a fantastic 6 tracker that takes the best from trip hop, African music and the more leftfield strains of house. The opening track sounds like something from Confield era Autechtre but fused with pianos and acoustic drums. Sixty-Forty could easily of come from a Portishead song while Lovesick sounds like a twisted Black Coffee song. The second half delves in ambient soundscapes, slo-mo house and another trip hop number that is is more Paris than Bristol. This eclecticism makes the album sounds less like an artist expressing their musical individuality but more like an expression of their taste. Lowlife is less a concrete musical statement and more a 30 minute sonic anthropological experiment.

Georgia - Like Comment [Meakusma]


In a similar vein as the Afterhours album, Like Comment is a blistering fusion of IDM, Shangaan and Talabotian house. Being released on a label that has previously showcased people like Terrence Dixon and Madteo should shine a  light on what to expect from Georgia's sophomore release. Disparate music is brought together in a way that feels like a proper sonic fusion that takes the intrinsic structural elemets of each genre rather than just the superficial toppings. Haya, for example, has African-esque percussion and rhythms, a synthetic choir and a End of the Game style guitars that when combined together creates one the most breath-taking tunes on the album as each element is brought in and out of focus in an almost free-form way.

The Future Sounds of Electro

Bintus - Live* & Locked [Power Vacuum]


Released at the arse end of 2013 this album by Bintus is one of the most lively and heart-racing albums of recent memory. To put it simply, this album fucking bangs. Paring the aggressiveness of classic electro by people like Anthony Rother  and Billy Nasty with the kind of rolling garage-techno steppers of Pangaea or Radial, this album is a half hour ball of messy, dirty sweaty fun that manages to sound as cheeky as it does angry. Techno and electro has a reputation for being ultra-serious music for serious men wearing serious black t shirts but often the very best versions of this music have had a little wink or smile. To use an extremely obvious and overused example, listen to The Bells again and don't tell me a little smile comes to your face when you realise he's using fucking church bells in an otherwise dirty and distorted techno banger. Live* & Locked functions in a similar way. He uses similar sounds as famously ultra serious techno heads such as Perc and AnD but subverts and twists them through rhythmic invention to create something that sounds as brutal as it does saucy . Take Giza Plateaux for example. This is a tune that wouldn't seem out of place on Hessle or Hemlock that combines the more harder edge sounds of those labels through someone like Joe's idiosyncratic universe.

Elitechnique - Intrusion Part II [Clone Loft Supreme]


While Live* & Locked was fun by design, Intrusion Part II feels fun by purpose. A sequel to last year's effort, Elitetechnique's brilliant release shows it's true colour on the first track. Love Triangle is a joyous HI-NRG disco tune complete with congas, singing men and Funkadelic synths. This release is a bubblegum mixture of cheesy Italo-Disco, spindly electro and synth-funk that also has surprising moments of moments of emotional resonance on tunes like the closing number Fin. A slow jazz funk influenced cut that verges into kitsch-lounge music, it finishes the album on a moment of emotional clarity and honesty that succeeds where most people would fail attempting this musical equivalent of a maroon velvet cushion with prawn cocktail stains hidden in the corner.

 Morphology - Identity Component [Zyntax Motorcity]


On a more serious tip, Identity Component is Morphology's sophomore album that continues their path of dubby, pointillist Drexciyan electro. From the first two tunes it's clear that these dudes mean business. Magnetosphere is a fast paced electro thriller with an acidic bassline, frantic percussion and dub chords. It sounds like a darker, rougher take on NRSB-11's aluminum critique on contemporary capitalism with last year's album Commodified. This sound is continued throughout the album until we get to the penultimate Inertial Motion that in my mind is the most beautiful tune on this release. Starting off with an extremely delicate rhythm and washed out chords, the sub bass is suddenly brought in and moves the song forward. Two thirds of the way through a a synthetic string pattern comes in that left this listener breathless. It's reminiscent of a similar moment half way through Peverelist's seminal Rolling With The Punches when the main high frequency melody that has been playing throughout the song is suddenly taking over by a pulsating synth that completely changes the whole vibe of the tune.

Fractured Techno

 Hound Scales - Sabbath Lillie Hawks [White Asega]


Hound Scales is an artist that is normally affiliated with the Brooklyn based label Fifth Wall that was recently featured in RA's excellent Label of the Month series. They've become associated with an interesting middle ground between house and techno that verges towards the rougher, edgier side of each spectrum. Starting off 2014 on the rising label White Asega, Sabbath Lillie Hawks is a fantastic 4 tracker that develops on this sound pushed by people like Divvorce and Metrist as well as the aforementioned Hound Scales. The opening track Odile could easily fit in with the rougher, industrial side of techno but has a funkier, more soulful side that a lot of that music lacks. A distorted, metronomic main groove is juxtaposed by wailing soul samples that would be a breah of fresh air in the darkest of sets. Howard Hugesian is a more direct tune that has a certain bounce that was explored by Kamikaze Space Programme on their self titled 12" from last year. On the flip, Thinner sounds like a darker, distant cousin of an Akufen-eque stepper that's paired with an admirable remix by Forward Strategy Group. Hound Scales and the Fifth Wall crew are definatly ones to watch out for over the coming year.

L'estasi Dell'oro - Iscariotic Lips [Macro]


It's far too much of a journalistic cliche to say that a piece of music takes you on a  journey, but sometimes music can become exploratory and otherworldly. L'estasi Dell'oro have been pursuing a completely baffling and unique path and have only added to it with this release on Stefan Goldmann's Macro imprint. Their 2013 was ridiculously on point and topped by a 15 minute Unit Moebius Anonymous vs. Shitcluster Remix that had ludicrously over distorted drums, blistering noise and a deranged pitched down voice demanding us to enjoy ourselves. Iscariotic Lips is superficially quieter and more reserved than that tune, but this is deceiving because underneath it's a whole lot stranger. This release leaves the impression of what a rougher, disheveled Ricardo Villalobos might sound like. Iscariotic Lips isn't a million miles away from something like Africolaps but goes much further down the rabbit hole. Reverse & Repair wouldn't sound out of place on labels like Trilogy Tapes or L.I.E.S, it's screeching violins in wicked harmony with the distorted drums.
  
Mark Du Mosch - Bay 25 [Dekmental]


I've always thought that Mark Du Mosch has been one of the most undervalued artists producing this kind of fashionable, weird house music. His releases for Moustache and Tabernacle have been some of the highlights of the recent times and he carries on that high standard for the amazing Dutch label Dekmental. Sharing similar sounds with the recent Ondo Fudd release for Trilogy Tapes, this is in a completely different class to most of that kind of music and shows a subtlety and understanding of the music that most lack. Both Bay 25 and Living Up are brilliant explorations of noisey house music and are complimented with a remix by critics darling Gesloten Cirkel.