I interviewed Drexciya’s James Stinson twice. The first occasion was for the release of 1999’s Neptune’s Lair, the second was ahead of the original release of The Opening of the Cerebral Gate in 2001. Both interviews are no longer available; the first was published on a website that ceased operations in 2002, the second appeared in a print magazine that suffered the same fate around the same time. Stupidly, both pieces were on a computer that gave up the ghost and was not backed up.
Though his tracks as Objekt probably make most producers green with envy, writing music doesn’t come easy for TJ Hertz. He has spoken in the past about his tortuous production process, and each track he makes being comprised of “scar tissue” left by up to 80 iterations of the same track. His first record was something of an accidental hit, comprised of two dubstep pastiches borne out of being stuck in a techno rut. For better or worse, these frustrations and accidents are an intrinsic part of what makes Hertz’s music what it is; he’s very much the antithesis to stern techno functionalism, an obsessive producer who consistently creates the kind of intelligently jaw-dropping moments that are all too rare in the genre.
Bing & Ruth’s RVNG Intl. debut Tomorrow Was The Golden Age was recorded in Yonkers, an inner suburb of New York City used in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and A Beautiful Mind (among others like Catch Me If You Can and Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy). Soundtracks to those Jim Carrey and Russell Crowe films were largely classical, minimal and ambient, so it seems for want of a connection with this type of music there’s one to be made with this part of the Big Apple.
It’s still relatively early days for Swedish techno devotee Thomas Jaldemark’s YTA Recordings, having released just a low-key cassette and a 7” up to this point. Jaldemark is better known as one half of Fishermen, whose debut album on Skudge White (produced alongside MRSK) made for a powerful addition to the strong current of high quality edgy electronics emanating from Sweden of late. As such, it gives you some indication of what to expect when delving into this eight-track compilation of largely unfamiliar names. Fishermen naturally make a contribution, as does MRSK’s voodoo-inspired Smell The Flesh project and the burgeoning KEL moniker donned by Elias Landberg of Skudge fame, but elsewhere there is fresh talent to be admired.
Until now we’ve mostly gained a sense of who Beau Wanzer is, musically speaking, through a series of collaborative projects, not to discount his recent excellent solo forays for L.I.E.S. and Nation. The straight to tape, snake-like rhythm tracks of Streetwalker with Elon Katz, the perma-shifting Jakbeat of Mutant Beat Dance with Traxx and the power loop techno of Civil Duty with Shawn O’Sullivan. Collectively, these projects and others hint at Wanzer’s talents and influences without revealing much about the man himself. If a sense of uncertainty about letting the world in on his own individual sound was the defining force here, such concerns are unfounded on the basis of the qualities shown on this collection of archival recordings from Beau Wanzer.
Over the past few years, Adam Mitchell has focused his efforts on the Traversable Wormhole and ADMX-71 side projects. However, as his latest album shows, his Adam X guise is the one that still plays host to his most visceral and thrilling music. Traversable Wormhole was a means for the US producer to link back into contemporary techno. It’s tempting to posit that Mitchell’s recent ADMX-71 release on L.I.E.S. meant that he retains a visibility among the new wave of American labels, but Irreformable is a far more brutal articulation of electronic music than any new school industrial/wave-influenced artist.
With one of those hefty discographies that could make the uninitiated tremble, Paul White has in five years marked himself out as a prolific and malleable artist. His long-time allegiance to One-Handed Music has given rise to four sturdy albums since 2009, while there are numerous singles released almost exclusively on the London-based imprint. Now though, R&S have called upon him to bring his crossover world of crooked beats, wonky pop, and blues-hued psychedelia to a different kind of crowd, and it could be the move that truly embeds him in the public consciousness.
Tom Ellard would probably object to a long review of ‘80s Cheesecake, considering his biography consists of the following brevity: “I was born, and then I was here. To be continued.” But what the Australian-born producer may lack in gab, he more than makes up for with ingenuity – though Ellard wasn’t one of the founding members of the Severed Heads (who went by the even-less-amicable name “Mr. and Mrs. No Smoking Sign” at the time of their formation), he saw the band through their transformation from 80′s proto-industrial before moving into experimental electronic synthpop and post-punk, and was ultimately responsible for both some of their greatest commercial successes and some of their fuzziest, most inaccessible oddities.
It’s been a good long while that Alec Storey has been rounding out his own brand of electro funk. Formerly operating under the Al Tourettes moniker, his emergence has been nothing if not slippery, flitting between moments of great recognition before nestling back under the radar with his not-easily-defined musical character. From soundtrack turns on Black Swan to a fruitful partnership with Appleblim, playing drums for Will Saul to a thorough championing from Mary Anne Hobbs, there have been plenty of bouts of recognition for the skills the producer possesses, but this emergence of the Second Storey alias and the linking to Houndstooth feels like the most decisive step forward for the London-via-Norfolk-and-Bristol artist.
There’s something to be said for a certain purity, isn’t there? So often it’s the records that weren’t even expecting to be bought, the bands that never thought anyone would show up to see them live, the songs made as if nobody was ever going to listen that end up have lasting effects. And it isn’t only archival festishism – some albums, like this one, attest to the fact that solitary experiments sometimes become pivotal in the story of a music. Tibor Csebits and Philippe Alioth self-released Portrait in their hometown of Basel – even singing in the Basel dialect at times – when they were about fifteen years old. They liked synthesizers so they experimented, they wrote some songs, they had a lot of fun, and ended up defining a certain kind of minimal synth while they were at it.
Quentin Vandewalle’s Antinote is a rare beast: a label that is almost impossible to pin down. Though the Paris label first surfaced with the archival proto techno of Iueke, Antinote has developed into an increasingly open-minded concern, hopping between the John Carpenter-inspired synth-wave of Nico Motte’s excellent Rheologia, the Future Times-ish tropical wizardry of DK, the cozy dream-pop of Syracuse, And that’s before we get to the dense and off kilter rhythms of Albinos.
For someone with reasonably limited exposure, Austin Cesear has managed to leave quite an impression with his releases thus far. It helps of course that his sound has found favour with those steering such vaunted ships as Opal Tapes, Proibito and Public Information, for whom he returns to serve a follow-up to his Cruise Forever debut, but such affiliations only speak to the quality of the music rather than some notion of right-place-right-time hype. His first long player on Public Information was certainly a striking affair that drew on all manner of house and techno abstractions to make its presence felt, with plenty of dubby sensibilities rubbed into its muscles and ample breathing room for experimentation. It’s a premise that continues with West Side, a six-tracker reportedly written in homage to the docks of Oakland, California; although music of this nature is fairly wide open to thematic interpretation.
There’s something refreshingly honest about the kaleidoscopic, drum-machine heavy retro-futurism of Benny Badge and Inkswel’s Hot Shot Sounds label. Hot Shot has never hidden it’s influences; it’s raison d’être is simple: to deliver synthesizer-heavy music inspired by “electronic soul” from the ‘80s and, to a lesser extent, early ‘90s. There’s not much more to it than that, meaning the label’s reputation rises and falls on the quality of the material; not so much whether it ripples with the aural trademarks of 1980s funk, soul, disco and electro – for the record, it usually does – but whether each track is good enough to stand on its’ own two feet.
The most recent Separate Mind column from this writer asked ‘what’s in a name?’ and for ambient producer Jo Johnson, it seems that her membership of the riot grrrl band Huggy Bear continues to play a big part of her public persona. This association was one of the first things that nearly every online news item about the release of debut album Weaving led with – despite the fact that it was over 20 years since she played with the band.
Although at this stage he is ten years into his releasing career, most would agree that it is in the last couple of years that Johannes ‘Tin Man’ Auvinen has reached the wider electronic music consciousness, helped in no small part by allegiances to such respected institutions as Killekill, Pomelo and the Acid Test series from Absurd Recordings. Likewise his collaborations with the likes of Cassegrain and Donato Dozzy have contributed to this recognition amongst the house and techno cognoscenti, but really Auvinen’s success lies past these surface signifiers, instead emanating from his gifted reappraisal of one of the most well-worn sounds in electronic dance music. By rights acid should have hit a creative cul-de-sac a long time ago, and there is no shortage of artists flogging the same lysergic rave style for lack of a new path to tread, but Auvinen has always stood head and shoulders above the pack as a force for creativity and invention around the nexus of a TB-303.
For two artists whose records are characterised by dramatic flourishes, iconoclastic imagery and distinctive sound palettes, the Games Have Rules collaboration is a decidedly understated affair. While it focuses on a largely ambient approach, the album was conceived in and inspired by New York and is fuelled by a sense of quiet determination and undulating vitality that defines that city. If there are prior reference points in either producer’s back catalogue, they are traceable back to Dave Sumner’s releases. The former Sandwell District member has recently been engaged in a series of projects that brought him back to his roots since the techno collective closed its doors. First, there was his debut solo album, Incubation, which contained influences from the 90s output of Speedy J and Plastikman in its sleek rhythms and teemed with acid ticks and trancey synth bursts.
“What you’ve got is a whole… miserable subculture“. Spoken by an anonymous voice, these words are the only ones uttered in the entirety of Lee Gamble’s KOCH. Given the London-based producer’s penchant for revisiting the past, the statement could easily be interpreted as ironic – maybe the clip has been plucked from archival footage in the ’90s, maybe from a news segment extolling the dangers of jungle music.
After the runaway success of Routes in 2011, LV and Joshua Idehen have linked up once again to deliver a second long-player that fuses the playful electronics of the production outfit with Idehen’s dexterous and devastatingly poetic postulations on modern city living. Vibrant with originality, accessibility and unpredictability, the first album managed to place itself outside of standard scenic currents and exist as a singular artistic statement, and now its only peer is its successor. This isn’t a case of repeating the same trick twice however, but rather a logical continuation of the intriguing path down which the combined creative forces of LV and Idehen are heading, and it’s a damn fine trajectory to return to.
For all his undeniable synth-wizardry and clear production nous, Italian-in-Berlin Massimiliano Pagliara has always been keen on collaborations. His early productions for Daniel Wang’s Balihu label and Live at Robert Johnson were marked by an impressive list of guest musicians and vocalists. As his career has progressed, he’s maintained this approach, working extensively with Jules Etienne, Discodromo and others. While his productions have developed distinctive trademark sound – heavy on vintage synthesizers (lists of which regularly feature on the artwork of his 12” singles), intergalactic melodies, Vangelis influences and the arpeggio-heavy chug of Italo-disco – he’s not shy in working with friends and acquaintances from the Berlin scene. His 2011 debut album, Focus For Infinity, was packed with guest vocalists and organic instrumentation from a core group of trusted players.
Eric Copeland’s template for solo diabolic disco has always been impressively subversive; applying his cut-up/fuck-up techniques to the sex-appeal of disco creates something which at first seems strangely solitary, then increasingly sordid. A privately kept kind of sex as antithesis to the prevalent lust-airing in his source material which, judging by the consistent use of pornography in his visual cuts and the “masterbator” title for his DFA record last year, he’s all too aware of. This is music of sticky keyboards, creased pages and slurred processing from a protesting hard-drive crammed full. If there’s a spin on this it’s probably a puerile one, seeing Copeland’s affection for juvenile delirium that always propelled Black Dice and a lot of his previous solo work, but it could be concurrent with dance music that no longer lives and works for dancefloor. For those who watch boiler room, have a wank, go to bed. Probably not though, I think he’s just mucking about having fun making sticky loops – as ever.