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Reviewed this week
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Perhaps the most striking thing about Tronik Youth's Control+S Edits series - aside from the undoubted quality of his re-rubs - is its unpredictability. Previous installments have variously doffed a cap to post-punk madness, new beat, EBM, synth-wave and forgotten disco-not-disco. Happily, this fifth volume continues this theme. Opener "Betty Spaghetti" sounds like a long-lost, new wave era proto-house gem (all tactile electronics, wonky drum machine rhythms and hedonistic vocals), while "Coco-Nutz" comes from the weirder end of the EBM/post-punk spectrum. As for Trans-India Express, it sounds like Bollywood producers fantasizing about an unlikely alliance between Kraftwerk, Patrick Adams and Bohannon. It's seriously strange, but also exceptionally good.
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Juju and Jordash are rather good at making albums. Their last full-length excursion, 2012's brilliant Techno Primitivism, was a gloriously maudlin and evocative affair, as influenced by drowsy ambient and experimental electronica as house and techno. While there are some similarly dark tracks lurking in the shadows of third album Clean Cut (see the creepy "Swamp Things"), for the most part it's a pleasingly dancefloor-centric concoction. That's not to say that they've packed it with jolly moments - the tipsy, melodious "Anywhere" and dub disco-meets-deep house wonk-out "SP Shakes" aside - but rather their leftfield blends of house and techno have a more club-friendly feel. The results are, for the most part, extremely good, with the rave-era revivalism of "Whippersnapper" (a kind of darkroom, Detroit-influenced take on T-Coy's "Carino") standing out.
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Matthew Herbert's return to the dancefloor, via the re-launched Part series (volume one landed way back in 1995, amazingly), has been one of the good news stories of 2014. Part 8 is the third instalment in the long-running series this year, and features another quartet of wonky, left-of-centre house cuts in his inimitable style. Naturally, there's much to admire, from the piano jazz-meets-outsider house swing of "Remember Ken" and the glitch-funk of "Ticket", to the acoustic-goes-electronic pulse of "Her Face". Arguably best of all, though, is "The Wrong Place", which boasts many of Herbert's aural trademarks - think cut-up vocal edits, tipsy electronics and a delightfully odd, low-slung groove.
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Diagonal has been one of 2014's standout labels, bringing innovation and most importantly a sense of humour to techno across a series of releases from the Russell Haswell, Bronze Teeth and more. It is however label founder Powell's own music that set the tone for the label, and on this retrospective collection the producer collects all of his music from the past three years released on labels including Diagonal, Liberation Technologies and The Death Of Rave. If you're yet to indulge in the gristly, skewed, off-centre brand of techno Powell has been blessing us with recently, this is the ideal place to get involved with one of techno's most exciting producers.
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Arriving in expanded form, complete with remixes from Com Truise, Bibio, Beacon and Christopher Willits, Tycho returns to regular home Ghostly International with Awake, his fourth full-length. It sees him in fine form, delivering a sun-bright set that melds blissful guitars and shoegaze textures with hazy electronics, warm grooves and orange-hued atmospherics. Hansen is a master at creating unashamedly positive, evocative music, and Awake is full of these kind of smile-inducing moments. Aside from being impeccably well made, it is also pleasingly cheery. If you've yet to succumb to his charms, Awake is a great place to start.
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With the label at the peak of its powers after a breakthrough 2014, one of the final Diagonal releases sees material from Powell's excellent Club Music EP treated and abused by the titan-esque figures of Ancient Methods and Richard H. Kirk. If you've seen Powell towering over some decks or heard his Melon Magic show on NTS it's likely you will recognise at least one of the four remixes here and it's hard to pick out one favourite. Ancient Methods goes all turbo-charged Nitzer Ebb on his opening Korpersaure91 remix of "Club Music" whilst the playfully juddering rhythms of the subsequent Pogo Im Saurebad effort should explain the title. Meanwhile Kirk boils down "So We Went Electric" to its barest rhythmic elements on a fizzing main mix whilst the accompanying dub is full on crazy.
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The 1080p empire expands its belt to let in another fresh talent, and this time it's Mongo Skato showing off an idiosyncratic style across eight tracks that veer from plush, chopped up boogie on "Fela" through to dense and slamming techno pressure loaded with textures and flair on the excellent "Jobin". There's a kitchen sink feel to the sound that Mongo Skato conjures up, with a particular penchant for sample choppery that calls to mind Jackson And His Computer Band, but at any given point there is equal attention given to plush melody and atmosphere as much as crafty edits, and in that sense it's an eminently listenable and enjoyable release.
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Simian Mobile Disco's most recent album, Whorl, did a good job in repositioning them as makers of curious leftfield techno, more interested in krautrock and IDM influences than the riotous electro and radio-friendly pop with which they were once known. The three tracks that make up Wheels Within Wheels were recorded at the same time - using a similar modular synthesizer-heavy set-up - but eschew the restless pulse of their dancefloor material in favour of slowly unfurling, beatless excursions. There's a fluid feel throughout, with the Reichian loops of the title track and shimmering chords of "Rectangule" hitting home hardest. It is, though, all very good.
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The Scythians EP from M.E.S.H. was one of the undoubted highlights of PAN's year, and here the title track gets a surprise batch of remixes from four producers, each taking the track's scrambled future club styles into equally uncharted territory. UK producer Grovestreet fuses grime and techno Night Slugs style on his remix, while DJ J Heat transforms it into a floor-ready Jersey club banger. M.E.S.H.'s Janus cohort Lotic offers an ethereal revision taking the original into darker terrain, but its Logos that offers the most radical version, turning it into a near-beatless slice of weightless instrumental grime.
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Boof! Belgium's Meakusma finally return with their fifteenth release and it's by none other than Ryo Murakami, co-founder of the lovely Ranrecords label and an artist who has featured on everything from Dessous to Germany's Poker Flat. "Contagion" is on a classic Meakusma tip, where bleak, echoing sonics meet intricate percussion and low-swung low-ends, while "Statical" is an utterly swamped lo-fi jam for the pensive state of mind. Legendary dub techno duo Porter Ricks deliver a trademark dub-techno reinterpretation filled with cavernous swells of delay and that inimitable old-school Berlin flex; it's like hearing a new Chain Reaction, and that's pretty serious stuff in our books. A must have!
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Having already issued a fine debut album for the Editions Mego label this year, Swedish artist Klara Lewis serves further notice of her clear talent for power electronics and expertly sculpted sonic design with this four-track release on Peder Mannerfelt Produktion. Msuic "I", "II", "III" and "IV" follow a similarly gloomy path to her album, where cavernous walls of noise erupt from every angle only to be swallowed back into a long tunnel of atmospherics and grey-scaled ambience. The fourth segment is particularly enticing, where Lewis blends field recordings together with flutters of distant, sinister horns and more tranquil soundscapes.
Exclusives
HERBERT - Part 8 (Accidental)
TYCHO - Awake (deluxe version) (Ghostly International US)
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO - Wheels Within Wheels (Delicacies)