41 posts tagged edm
John Roberts: Paper Frames (Dial)
House producer John Roberts has always been slightly left of center, but there’s something quite inviting about his warm, leftfield house music that makes it feel easy and familiar. Paper Frames is his latest outing for the always-reliable Dial imprint, an EP consisting of 2 longer cuts and 2 shorter interludes. “Untitled II” and “Untitled IV” are brief prepared piano tracks that help set the tone for the other tracks that respectively proceed. The title cut is my favorite here, with a layered combination of mallet sounds, string harmonics and staggered acoustic drum samples that sound much closer to Four Tet’s repertoire than the majority of Dial acts. “Crushing Shells,” on the other hand, splits the difference, with a twinkly sound that is classic Dial over a more expected four-to-the-floor rhythm section that still manages to surprise with periodic spinbacks that throw the sound off kilter for a beat or two at a time. It’s a cool evolution to Roberts’ sound, and I wonder if this is where he’s heading for a new full-length. If so, we all have much to look forward to — it’s gorgeous and exciting to hear him exploring sounds even more on the fringe of dance music.
Seiji: “Yesman” (Seiji 1, 2010)
Yes, man. TGIF!
Perc: A New Brutality (Perc Trax)
Label boss Perc returns after his heralded Wicker & Steel release and remix companions with an EP of brand new material. The title is appropriate even by Perc’s darkest standards, with each of these tracks bringing an especially caustic blend of rhythm & noise. He’s still working within the framework of techno and dancefloor compatibility, but he’s pushing further to the outskirts with hammering patterns and discordant sounds, broken beats and repetitive but less typical pattern-making. The title cut is a machine-gunner, reminding me more of Pan Sonic than any of his techno peers. “Cash 4 Gold” is a brighter companion, but it’s no more accessible, built around a jerky, off-kilter bass-snare pattern and woozy high-end synth pads. Machine skronks and bleeps punctuate the mix, adding to its disorienting vibe. Only “Boy” honors a more predictable techno underpinning, with a nice bobbing groove amidst its white noise snares. When it hits a nice stride it sounds like an update to the chunky industrial dance music of Wax Trax et. al, but it’s the breakdown in the center that steals the show, a beatless segment with a crescendo of noise. “Before I Go” bucks expectations yet again, a drowsy, gloomy closing based around looped piano samples and found sounds, a reflective ending to a particularly surly collection of tracks.
Polysick: Digital Native (Planet µ)
Hailing from Rome, Egisto Sopor is the mind behind the odd musical stylings of Polysick. Digital Native is his first proper full-length album under the moniker, though he’s been quietly releasing music under both this name as well as TheAwayTeam for a couple of years now. Considering his newfound home on Mike Paradinas’s Planet µ label, it’s refreshing how atypical the sounds are on this album. It hardly relates to the label’s flagship breakcore or spazzy dubstep crossover sounds at all, with many tracks quite understated and melodic. It’s hardly ambient, though, but usually with a woozier quality of pitch bends and odd arpeggio synths, especially on a track like “Meltinacid” or “Lost Holidays,” or odd drumming and synth flute combos like “Preda” or “Gondwana.” There are very few samples on this album, at least in the melodic sense, and the arrangements are generally rather neat and clean. There’s something in Polysick’s languid synths and off-kilter patternmaking that is compelling, making for great headphones listening in his attention to detail here and there. One of my favorites is “Taito” with its square arpeggios and light, melodic pulse, recalling the liquid sleekness of early 90s Warp techno. Elsewhere things sounds deliberately unresolved, like the discordant synths of “Caravan,” the pitter-patter of “Tic Tac Toe,” or the rickety wooziness of opening track “Totem.” The longest track, “Transpelagic,” is a squiggly acid-infused cut that reminds me a bit of Drexciya and their underwater adventures. Definitely one for at home listening with its varied tempo and sonic palette, but not without some dancefloor potential here and there. It’s a pretty fresh and fun collection of ideas and sounds that feels nostalgic while looking forward.
The Traveller: A 100 EP (Ostgut-Ton)
The Traveller is an alias of techno producer René Pawlowitz, and the tracks herein are a little ruder, less taut and refined than his usual output as Shed. “A 100” has a big fat reverberated drum loop that anchors it, with not much of a bassline and only repetitive phrases and a series of droning chords layered overhead. “Ber” feels a bit stopgap between the first and last track, consisting entirely of chords and melodic patterns without any rhythm section, but “Bypass” snaps back into it with a jabby bassline and clean deep kick drum. Both “A 100” and “Bypass” are likely to keep any floor moving, just rough enough around the edges to oscillate between playful and something more sinister, a nice addition to his substantial body of work.
Brogan Bentley: Brogan Bentley EP (Leaving)
I’ve been digging this EP from Brogan Bentley, an odd fusion of dance music and lo-fi bedroom production. It has enough of a swagger to qualify as dance music certainly, but often the production is spacious and reverbed out, often lacking a beat altogether but with all of the nods toward the dancefloor without fully engaging it. A steady bob of the head may be all the artist has in mind, enjoying these sounds on a nice set of headphones. “Ask When I’m Night” is a prolonged tease with its persistent chord stabs and SK-1 style vocal snippets. It recalls some of the sample trickery of Burial or the Tri Angle camp, using obvious repitching and distortion of samples to provide a pseudo-refrain in an otherwise instrumental track. “Irish Sky” has more immediate percussion, nice and crisp, but it’s a curious combination of fast hi-hats and half-beat claps, as if it can’t decide whether it wants to be an anthem or a smoky slow jam. “With Him” is a bit grimier in production and all of its little triggered samples, while the rhythm section picks up a little 2-step trot and a fat bass synth does most of the legwork to move things forward. Overall it’s a cool mix of intimate, warm production and ideas that could just as easily translate into big club tracks. But somehow their miniature nature here feels just right to me, better experienced late at night on a good pair of headphones.
Get a free download of “Ask When I’m Night” at the Leaving Records site!
Vladislav Delay: Espoo (Raster-Noton)
“Olari,” the first track on this rather odd EP from Sasu Ripatti, starts off unassumingly enough with a sort of machine-gun like stuttering sample of synthesis, with what appears to be a double-time broken beat syncopation. But as is his wont, he confounds expectations by instead lurching into a disorienting, plodding 5/4 groove. It’s surpising and satisfying because he could’ve more easily just thrown down the 4/4 kick that the first minute or two begs for, but Vladislav Delay is not a project in which Ripatti has ever indulged the dancefloor (see Luomo, Sistol or Uusitalo for those perhaps more predictable beats). Even better, though, is “Kolari” which pounds away energetically with an insistent kick drum and gated wall of sound before some light melodic touches accentuate things. The uptempo kick/snare combo reminds me of old electro-industrial stuff like Liaisons Dangereuses or DAF in tempo and demeanor, but it’s all filtered through the Vladislav Delay arsenal of effects and technology in a way that makes this feel both incredibly current but also unique and likely to age quite gracefully, as has many of Ripatti’s productions over the years. Each of these tracks appears in a more abstracted treatment, with “Olari Versio” becoming a lighter, less lumbering study in repetition and rhythm, dropping the heavier handed percussion track altogether and instead opting to focus on the unpredictable stutter of its signature sample. “Kolari Versio” is more exciting to me, with its drum tracks muted but still present, half-tempo, but still effervescent with its bubbly, urgent rhythm. Even though it’s less of a full-on jam than its original version that comes earlier, it’s a nice nod to his more spacious repertoire without looking too far backward, allowing listeners to come down a bit in its more downtempo denouement. Excellent stuff. Along with Ripatti’s full-length under the moniker last year (Vantaa) it’s a reminder that he is constantly evolving and exploring new ideas in new ways. Top notch.
Mike Dehnert: Fachwerk 25 (Fachwerk)
Mike Denhert is a fairly proliifc producer in his short time in the techno scene, with 9 albums in the last 5 years and far more EPs and singles. My only real exposure has been through compilation tracks, like his minimal contribution to Clone’s Inertia series, but Fachwerk 25 really surprised me by comparison. While it has the same minimal qualities, there’s a lushness to many of these tracks that gives it a warmth and soul that’s much more approachable. The first few tracks aren’t so stripped down, but rather quite melodic with arpeggio melodies that recall Giorgio Moroder as if transmitting from deep space. As the album progresses, the tracks get deeper and the grooves are more angular, like the decaying stabs and massive subbass undulation of the title cut, or the jagged edges of “Grundform” which recalls the stiff and alien sounds of early Profan. Many techno albums tend to seem padded to run long, but Fachwerk 25 has the opposite problem; Dehnert’s tendency for interludes or short tracks leaves me often wanting more. The melodic sci-fi tinged “Modulat” could easily run 3 times longer than its 2 minute duration, while synth experiments like “STH” could probably have been exploited as the basis for a full groove rather than a 44-second interlude. But this push and pull, the balance between sketches and complete ideas, the contrast between deep, mechanical tracks and melodic or atmospheric touches, is at the core of what makes Fachwerk 25 so exciting from start to finish. For me it is a complete validation of any hype around Dehnert’s repertoire — surely one of the best techno albums of the year.
Squarepusher: Ufabulum (Warp)
Tom Jenkinson earned his place in the upper echelons of electronic music in the mid 90s with a glut of spastic, near perfectly executed drum & bass albums as Squarepusher, emphasizing both the “drum” and “bass” in ways that were and still are completely unique. His frenetic style of electric bass guitar work and ability to dice and program beats like nobody’s business has mutated over the years, with several more obscure projects that dove headlong into acid (Chaos A.D. being my favorite of those) and a phase of non-electronic music-making (1999’s Music Is Rotted One Note and a few EPs that surrounded it). He even created a “band” for his last album, a weird vocoder pop set that skewed toward downtempo funk more than the crazy breaks that made a name for him. The hype that surrounded his latest album largely stemmed from the anticipation that followed Jenkinson announced a return to entirely electronic production methods, casting off the guitar and bass touches that have nearly always graced his catalogue. Even through his more self-indulgent left turns, I’ve stuck with Squarepusher, because even when the result is slightly less successful it’s usually still interesting and worth a listen. Ufabulum is, I have to admit, very much a return to form. Like fellow Warp veterans Autechre, he’s not exactly blazing the eletronic music trail the way he did in the 90s, and in a way his most surprising music may be in the past, but that’s not to take away from how fucking GOOD this record is. It’s a healthy cross-section of all of the sounds and sensibilities he’s honed over the years, including the tightly crafted drum programming that’s become his calling card and a very nice melodic edge. He’s also managed to touch on some of the jazzy spunk of an album like Feed Me Weird Things along with the jaunty quasi-pop of “My Red Hot Car.” The front half of Ufabulum is stuffed with ideas, many tracks with a distinctly melodic flair. “Unreal Square” is a great play on the bleeping square synth that kicks it off, with a bright melody that’s as infectious as it is annoying. It blossoms into a lush melodic track with a more easy-going swagger until its final act, when faster breakbeats kick in — he exploits to full effect a wild manipulation of spatial depth on specific sounds, going from bone dry to deep reverb sometimes in syncopated bursts. Tracks like “4001” and “Energy Wizard” showcase his knack for sweet and simple melodies, underpinned by complex and unpredictable bass programming, while “Stadium Ice” would probably feel right at home on his 1997 release Hard Normal Daddy if he swapped out the synth bass for his guitar and cast more of a jazz light over the sounds in the arrangement. “Red In Blue” is a beatless wanderer that distinctly breaks the album into halves… Pitchfork more or less dismissed the second half’s darker sprawl compared to the brighter, more vivacious front half, but I beg to differ… they are two sides of the same coin, in my opinion. That a writer would dismiss such an awesomely executed set of tracks because it’s not as “fun” or easy as the first several tracks seems small-minded to me — these tracks may be more difficult, but I think that’s only in the sense that they have less melody at their core. “Drax 2” is probably the most spazzy and elaborate of them all, with a looming sense of dread in its bending overtones and atmospheres while the programming goes ape shit. “Dark Steering” is like The Cure’s “Caterpillar” in a minor mode when its melodic refrain is in action, but there’s so much more to it in the details. He even does a full-on acid throwdown toward the album’s close with “303 Scopem Hard” before tying it all together with the airier synth chorus of “Ecstatic Shock” as a little bit of closing levity. For fans of Squarepusher’s backcatalogue, there’s a lot to love here, even if it consists largely of already explored elements of his disparate catalogue. He juxtaposes them in new ways with nods to current trends like dubstep and its various offshoots without getting mired in anything particularly trendy. His production levels have never sounded so superior, and his voice is still quite unique albeit less surprising that it may have been ten years ago. Really outstanding stuff — I can’t wait to see him blow the roof off the venue when I see him later this month on his first American tour in what seems like forever.
Puresque: Leitmotiv (Tresor)
I think everyone has at least one old really good friend… Someone you feel so comfortable with and know so well that even if years go by between visits, it’s like you’ve never been apart when you reconnect. Tresor is one of those old friends to me, so to speak. When I first really dove into techno in the late 90s, Tresor was essential listening and learning. Like a Pavlovian response, my ears perked up at the mere sight of their iconic logo on every release, and only very occasionally was I not turned on by what I heard on each one, across the variety of styles and sounds they’ve perpetrated for so long now. I sort of forgot about them over the last few years, but I’ve come back around to them this year with a few really nice ones that have proven quite satisfying. I find myself struggling to put techno into words very well these days, and Leitmotiv is no exception. This is a pretty streamlined affair all around, quite slick and minimal without being boring or monotonous, and never particularly abrasive. Nothing too bangin’ to be found here, but rest assured there’s plenty to keep your head bobbing or your feet moving. “Spinnenwabe” was on the EP he released a while ago, and is still a highlight with its fat chunky synth stabs and insistent hihat patterns. Another favorite is “Grenzwolf” with its nine-minute stride, consistent but evolving form, along with “Saebelrasseln” and its tippy-tap syncopation and sound-the-alarm synth tones. Overall, though, it’s pretty consistent start to finish, a solid slab of techno from one of the genre’s label mainstays.
Jimmy Edgar: Majenta (Hotflush)
Jimmy Edgar has never really gotten a fair shake in my opinion. He seems too goofy and pop-inclined for the serious heads, but he’s perhaps also too geeky and leftfield to gain traction in the pop world. It’s not totally fair, because Majenta is an album full of jams that could easily win over the hipster dance music set as much as tried and true electro fans. While there may not be any “I Wanna Be Your STD” (ouch) on Majenta, there are a number of seductive and sexually suggestive tracks like “Sex Drive,” “Touch Yr Bodytime,” and “Hrt Real Good.” While Edgar’s vocals are kind of take it or leave it in my opinion, his tracks are ace. He seems to split his attention between a very loyal throwback to early 80s electro (Cybotron, A Number of Names) and 90s house — digital bonus track “U Need Love,” for instance, directly channels MK Korg M1 dub mix realness. But one of my personal favorites, as cloying as it may be, is “This One’s For the Children,” which sounds like a generous nod to early 80s classic “Shari Vari;” when juxtaposed with the Dopplereffekt-esque “Sex Drive,” it’s a hot one-two punch. Whether fans of pop crooner crossovers like Junior Boys will be able to catch Edgar’s groove remains to be seen, but signing onto Scuba’s Hotflush imprint is a good start. Clearly Majenta is fairly far removed from the bass music trends Hotflush tends to explore, but it’s refreshing that Scuba believes enough in the leftfield weird pop Edgar’s exploring to give him a chance.
Tessela: D Jane / Channel (Punch Drunk)
2 nice chunky tracks from Ed Russell on the typically infectious Punch Drunk label… the A-side, “D Jane,” is a chunky four-to-the-floor number with clattering percussion and a whopping bass kick. It’s not so far off from the sound that Blawan’s really perfected and to which Randomer has recently taken. It really kicks into gear with a nice stabby bass hook which is really the only suggestion of melody at all here; otherwise it’s everything but the kitchen sink in a rude groove. “Channel” is more syncopated and broken in beat, with some pads and strings layered overhead to scatter some light on things. The repitched percussive stabs and samples remind me of the technical precision of Pearson Sound or Joe, not a sound out of place. I prefer the ruder A-side, but both cuts complement each other well.
Lorn: “Ghosst(s)” (Ninja Tune)
The new single from Lorn’s full-length album is a much cooler take on the album track “Ghosst” — it includes this original (though it’s about twice as long on the EP) with a nice rework by Shed, along with the album track. That bowed bass hook is pretty hard to deny…
Deadbeat: “Acid Wash Genes” (Exone)
What a nice and surprising club track from Deadbeat, usually known more for his buoyant dub techno or slower, moodier fare. (Thanks, Pete!)
Forward Strategy Group: Labour Division (Perc Trax)
Perc Trax is on a roll! The full-length debut album from UK duo Al Matthews and Patrick Walker is leaps and bounds cooler than the EPs I’ve heard from them over the last year or two. This is an album that really travels a distance over the course of its ten tracks. Opener “Ident” is an uplifting prologue, with its beatless arrangement of synths. From there it’s a headier mix of beats, bass and texture, without so much melody. But what’s refreshing is that as an album it really takes its time, never even really hitting what I’d call a proper techno stride until the halfway point. Perhaps that’s why this album is so compelling to me: it should be a techno album, but it’s not really techno at all. “Elegant Mistakes” is a nice crunchy broken beat groove, while “Industry & Empire” is a mid-tempo chugger that has some sweet detailing amidst the factory reverberation. “Metal Image” continues this thread of spacious, deep sound with an industrial slant — that is, industrial in the factory-like sense, not “rargh rargh rargh” vocal stylings or whatever. “TTH” is a really handsome gloomy groove, reminding me a bit of Monolake at his most melancholy, a big counterpoint to the rather streamlined mid-tempo electro of “Mandate” that starts things off. It’s an album that I’d say lends itself way more to home listening than club play; FSG have paid their dues to the dancefloor numerous times over by now anyway. They show off their chops at more atmospheric, less predictable sounds here with flying colors — superb all around.