164 posts tagged techno
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.
South London Ordnance: He Do The Police In Different Voices (Aery Metals)
The latest deluxe EP from South London Ordnance builds and expands on the dark vibes of his Witch Hunt 12” from last year, with sounds that fall further outside of traditional dancefloor boundaries for the maiden voyage of his own new Aery Metals imprint. In that sense, He Do The Police has sort of two separate identities. Perhaps the closest match to the sounds of that previous outing are found in “Floating World,” with its swirling chords and deep bassline coupled against a clattering, almost industrial rhythm section.
A close second is the big room sound of “Obsidian,” a collaboration with Femme en Fourrure that ought to work well getting any ‘floor’s sweaty bodies moving.
In sharp contrast to that is “Black Acre,” a collaboration with vocalist Brolin, falling closer to 90s trip hop than any of the warehouse sounds of SLO’s other tracks I’ve heard. Chris Carter delivers a dubbed out remix of the track, pulsing with a dense treatment of the original’s groove and reverberated synths, ditching Brolin’s vocal completely.
There are two remixes of “Modular Splash” (the original is nowhere to be found), handled by Factory Floor and JD Twitch. Factory Floor’s remix is a prolonged tease, all delicate sequences with the suggestion of an impending anthem that just never happens. It’s awesomely tense and fairly bold, a remix that pines for the dancefloor but which is fundamentally less than compatible. JD Twitch delivers a typically stunning rework, though, aimed directly at the dancefloor and smartly touching on all of the various areas that the other tracks on the EP do. Vocal snippets stutter in time with a persistent, layered, dense set of sequences, anchored by a steady kick and a crisp snare. Its squirmy bassline and bright high-end synth patterns are what seal the deal, lending it that almost-off-the-rails crescendo and energy that he’s known for. It’s a somewhat schizophrenic release then, with so many different sounds and approaches colliding in a seemingly random order. But each track is engaging in its own right, and well worth a listen. If anything, it greatly expands my perception and expectations of SLO, far more than the couple of tracks I’d heard previously. An interesting and varied set of sounds for clubheads and beard-scratchers alike.
Alex Smoke: Dust (R&S)
Alex Smoke has always struck me as a bit slippery when it comes to the often over-compartmentalized world of electronic music. At times his tracks plug in readily into a DJ set with typical 4/4 structures, but often he’s more restless than that, and his ideas evade such pigeonholing. His Lux album, for instance, had just as many headphones-only detours as it did dancefloor-compatible jams, and this newest single falls somewhere in the middle. “Dust” is a really infectious strange track, characterized by a pitch-manipulated vocal and airy chords over a chunky, broken mid-tempo groove. Tessela’s remix ups the bass music ante with some heavy low end and a nice head-bobbing groove, but it lacks the gloomy mystique that makes the original so special. A third track, “Ruction (Dub),” closes out the EP, with circular melodic patterns and a breathy arrangement of synths and zaps behind it, having in common with the title cut a smart juxtaposition of smooth and rougher sounds, samples and synths all working in tandem. “Dust” is the clear standout, though, with the other tracks padding it as a bonus. Highly recommended.
Marcel Dettmann: Dettmann II (Ostgut-Ton)
Marcel Dettmann’s second album continues his trajectory of deep, slick minimal techno. It starts off with a murmur in “Arise,” a prologue to the aptly named following track, “Throb.” With that a pervasive kick drum launches things into motion, and the track does just what it says it will, throbbing with a repetitive and constant synth pattern over the span of five and a half minutes. That Dettmann never introduces a single other drum sound in this one is surprisingly effective, letting modulation on the synth drive the entire track. Such is Dettmann’s modus operandi, putting the “minimal” in “minimal techno” with no qualms or frills. He reduces his arrangements to the bare essentials and treats every detail with attention. It’s not all completely severe, though, either; Dettmann breaks up the album with some interludes that are a welcome diversion as well as one obvious standout track that breaks away from the 4/4 kick. “Seduction” is a collaboration with vocalist Emika and is easily the highlight of the tracklist, positioned smartly in the center of the album. It’s built around punchy irregular kicks and Emika’s floating, ghostly vocal, recalling some of the more abstract tracks on Dettmann’s first album. My other favorite track is “Lightworks,” revolving around a startlingly melodic, dark synth pattern while some more subtle details propel it forward at a patient but steady clip. Elsewhere, beatless interludes like “Shiver,” “Stranger,” and “Outback” add some depth and contrast to the album’s sequence to great effect. Because Dettmann’s aesthetic tends to be quite minimal, I would say it’s not for everyone. But for techno enthusiasts, I think Dettmann II is almost as pure as it gets.
Minilogue: “Ghost” (Mule Electronic 2007)
The Field: Cupid’s Head (Kompakt)
From the opening bars of “They Won’t See Me,” Cupid’s Head is undeniably Axel Willner’s handiwork. His looping technique isn’t wholly original, but it’s certainly distinct. This fourth full-length for the project is leagues and bounds better than its predecessor (2011’s Looping State of Mind). It’s perhaps splitting hairs to prefer one of these albums over the next, since they are so heavily focused around the same techniques, but I find the tone of Cupid’s Head to be obliquely darker, a little more spry with a shadowy glimmer. Consisting of six substantial tracks, the general framework has much in common with all of his other material to date. Many of its musical motifs are manipulated loops of previously recorded music, often with the underpinnings of traditional minimal techno. Cupid’s Head's techno arrangements fall more in line with his earlier releases than the slower, more Balearic touch of some of his last album. But there's a slight paradigm shift here, as well — “Black Sea” is the most prime evidence. Over eleven and a half minutes long, it begins with a rather buoyant, looping sample and kick combo, growing steadily more layered and lush before dissipating into a more sinister rolling bassline that owes as much to EBM as it does to techno. Next to the opener, the title track is my favorite. It has a majesty to it that just feels… perfect. It's been a while since I've been moved in that way by his music (which is otherwise perfectly good, just lacking that magic). It's backed up against “A Guided Tour,” which also has a rather elegant poise, to form the album's gorgeous center. “No. No…” is also oddly compelling, the least dancefloor-friendly track, and the most curious one in terms of toying with time signatures, patterns, and layers, while “20 Seconds of Affection” rounds things out, perhaps working best as a denouement rather than on its own relative to how strong the rest of the album is. 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. Highly recommended. (For those MP3 bargain shoppers, Amazon has it for $2.49!)
Velvit: Nudge / The Act (Electric Minds)
Velvit is the leaner, meaner alias of Darren White. He’s perhaps better known as dBridge, having released dozens of singles under that moniker. The ruder sounds of these two cuts recall the sounds of acts like Blawan or Randomer, with a more punchy and physical sound that is still quite accessible but more aggressive. The smooth chords of “Nudge” complement its sharp, bright drums well, giving it a tinge of house flavor amidst the otherwise almost EBM arrangement. On the flipside is “The Act,” which shares the same bright snares but with a little more balance between its rhythm section and layers of other sounds. Dubby chords, unusual snippets of sound, and a bulbous bass synth flesh it out with some nice depth. Each track works well on its own but is also well-crafted for use in DJ sets. White’s use of sharp room reverb on his bright snares adds a pretty distinct personality to these tracks that makes me want to hear more.
Gui Boratto: The K2 Chapter (K2/Kompakt Digital)
Gui Boratto had been pumping out music a little while before he connected with Kompakt and the kick-off of their K2 imprint, but it was on those K2 records that I first discovered what a talent Boratto has for smart, slick dance music. While I haven’t heard all of the catalogue, K2 always struck me as the logical extension of Kompakt after the label began to migrate toward less minimal sounds; going back through the Kompakt catalogue, many of its early releases would have fit right in with the K2 stuff much more so than any of the more broadly palatable stuff on Kompakt (Rex the Dog, Rainbow Arabia, Jatoma). I perceived it as the Kompakt guys’ way of saying, “Hey! We still got it.” And so these tracks are devoid of any of the pop flavor that helped make Boratto’s “Beautiful Life” track a breakout for Kompakt (on his Chromophobia album, released also by Kompakt rather than K2). Instead they are clean and tightly crafted dancefloor tracks and DJ tools, highly functional but also executed with near perfection.
All four of his K2 A and B sides are collected here, book-ended by the best of the best. “Arquipelago” starts things off with its crisp rhythm section and rousing synth organ hum, backed up against “Symmetria,” a more buoyant track with syncopated chord stabs and bobbing bassline. “Sozinho” will always be a favorite of mine because it was the first track I ever heard by Boratto, with a slightly slower tempo and tinges of electro-house in its buzzing bass and distorted patterns, all structured within a neat and tidy techno framework. Paired with “Noronho,” they are probably the “smallest” of the set, sounding more miniaturized and insular compared to the more bombastic warehouse reverb of “Chains” or the spatial play of “Gate 7.” Other than the opening cut, my favorites fall at the end. “Haute Couture” and “Anunciación” are the gloomiest of the bunch, that perfect combination of upbeat utility and melancholic vibe. “Haute Couture” revolves largely around a spry, delayed melodic pattern and punchy bassline, while the neo-trance of “Anunciación” blends repetitive, delayed chords, a forlorn, delicate melody, and a big, nicely-weighted bass synth that holds it all together. Despite most of these tracks originally circulating 5 to 10 years ago (!) they still sound just as tight as ever. It’s nice to hear them collected in one place as a contrast to Boratto’s pop flirtations that have been peppered through his other output, showing that he’s a talent to be reckoned with regardless of genre.
Marcel Fengler: Fokus (Ostgut-Ton)
French producer Fengler shows off his chops yet again with his first full-length album for esteemed techno institution Ostgut-Ton. His singles in the past have ranged from total techno bangers (“Thwack”) to leftfield, angular dancefloor gems (“Enigma”), and Fokus seems to veer toward the latter, consistent with his other output on the Ostgut-Ton label. Not every track on Fokus is DJ-friendly, but it does flow quite well as an album. It starts off slow with the beatless intro “Break Through” followed by the dreamy opening stretch of “Mayria,” all pads and airy, floating vocals until the beat comes into focus (fokus?). Even then, though, “Mayria” is not exactly a club track; its broken beat and bit-crushed percussion chug in syncopation with a bob of the head more than fancy footwork. On “The Stampede,” Fengler shows off the techno chops he’s honed over the years, a no nonsense techno track that is heavy on snare fills and looping sixteenth note repetition. It’s probably the most pared down of the album, focused almost entirely on rhythm and litlte else. Other tracks like “Trespass” and “Dejavu” touch on musicality a bit more, but only on “Jaz” does Fengler really tap into the Detroit space-jam sound that he seems to obliquely reference elsewhere. Closing track “Liquid Torso” shares “Jaz“‘s level of melodic spaciness, but it’s more of a chill-out denouement that helps wrap up the album. “King of Psi” is sort of the clubby counterpart to “Mayria,” starting off minimally with high-end drones and textures before introducing a staggered gunshot snare pattern. Once the bass drum kicks in, it all comes together. With the full-length format, Fengler is free to color outside the lines more, and “High Falls” is such a case, where filtered pads are modulated in rhythm without a beat. “Distant Episode” also shies from the dancefloor, relying on looping textures and pads anchored by a muted, underwater kick drum that feels more like a pulse than a beat. It’s interesting to hear Fengler sprawling out over a full-length album format instead of his usual more concise EPs of the past. In that sense, Fokus is much broader in scope and sound; Fengler is still cranking out quality jams that work on a dancefloor and on headphones equally, but he also has more latitude to explore less functional music here. There is very little of the tinges of house music that have crept into some of his singles, and overall I’d say the music is deeper and less punchy compared to a preceding EP like Frantic (2012), but as a listening experience start to finish it’s solid.