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Benjamin Brunn – Plastic Album

With a consistent, unflashy approach to presenting his craft, it can sometimes be easy to overlook Benjamin Brunn. The Hamburg-based producer has been releasing music for the best part of 20 years, although it is primarily since his collaborative work with Move D around 2008 that he has been more publicly visible, and yet he remains something of an outsider proposition. Musically, his is an easy confection to love, dealing in well-rounded, melodically rich electronics with an understanding of groove and enough kinks in the composition to hold your attention. 2012’s A Sun Life LP on Third Ear served as a perfect distillation of these qualities, sporting as it did a warming balance of techno and house laden with plush synth lines.

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NGLY – Cities of Illusion

Argentinean producer Sidney Reilly made his debut as NGLY back in 2014 with a four-track white 12″ as part of the White Label division of Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. that contained the brilliant “Speechless Tape”. With its ponderous vocals and raw, jacking groove, it brilliantly re-configured the soulful iterations of early Chicago house. It’s no surprise that it captured the imagination of many underground DJs and resulted in NGLY’S debut becoming a much sought-after record and getting a subsequent re-edition on L.I.E.S.

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RVDS – Shadows

How many different ways can a traditional box jam set up be approached? Considering the limits of hardware production and the instantly recognisable sounds that the most popular units yield, it’s a wonder that artists continue to find ways to express themselves in a unique manner when using vintage kit. Reaching for classic sounds can be a divisive creative choice when scores of producers have already covered the same ground, but therein lies the talent of some musicians in making the familiar sound fresh and satisfying on the ears. To be fair to Rupert von der Schulenburg, he has been involved in music since the ‘80s and so any predilection towards old-skool sounds is at the very least based on years of experience rather than contrived retro-fetishism.

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The Smoke Clears – The Smoke Clears

The Smoke Clears is a project from Irish producer John Daly which debuted back in late 2013 with the album. Clear, for Seattle outpost Further Records. Better known for his house releases, this second album from Daly as The Smoke Clears sees him explore an ambient/downtempo approach that is every bit as impressive as his dancefloor material. The timing and look of the release has been perfectly planned; All City has scheduled it for mid-September, a period when the summer starts to give way to autumn. Fittingly, the cover features a brown forest set against a dusky sky.

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Alpha 606 – Afro-Cuban Electronics

Armando Martinez is one the first electronic music producers to explore overtly political themes. Until now, the form’s most memorable articulations of this topic have tended towards the abstract and have included UR’s call to the oppressed to revolt, Drexciya’s hope that the experience of their forefathers provided inspiration for change and the more general concern expressed in electro records that the machines are taking over.

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VC-118A – Shift Register

Much has changed in the four years since Samuel van Dijk unveiled his debut album under the VC-118 alias, the Lunar Disko-released International Airlines. While Britain, in particular, basked in the feel-good glow of the London Olympics, the Dutch producer’s dark, paranoid and intoxicating blends of razor-sharp electro, pitch-black techno, dubbed-out soundscapes and ghostly IDM seemed out-of-step with the prevailing mood. Since then, the winds of change have blown through Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and van Dijk’s undeniably bittersweet music suddenly feels in step with our troubling times.

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Project STS – Hubble Telescope Series Volume III

The third and final instalment of the Hubble Telescope series features The Exaltics and Gerald Donald collaborating on music that is supposedly dedicated to the scientists working at NASA and the ESA. Whether or not the men and women of science in these respective institutions kick back to abstract electro in their spare time is questionable, but the pair nonetheless deliver a release that does at times sound like it has voyaged through the cosmos to reach its audience.

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Cristian Vogel – The Assistenz

Cristian Vogel’s contribution to electronic music is unquestionable. Along with Neil Landstrumm (Pure /Sativa) and Steve Bicknell (Lost), Vogel and his associates provided an anarchic counterpoint to the big club and festival apparatus that sought to surround techno music during the early to mid-’90s. Like the aforementioned Landstrumm, Vogel’s music was a vividly freeform amalgamation of influences.

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Various Artists – Scandinavian Swords II

When it comes to the work of Northern Electronics and other labels and artists that orbit this particular dimension of Swedish techno, the appeal is less about a dogmatic adherence to rules than it is about a sense of place. While the label’s output can range from tough rhythmic pulses to spacious ambience, the work of Varg, Abdullah Rashim, SARS et al is consistent in its evocation of an imagined place. Much music these days seeks to draw on worldly influences to fling the listener to far-out, exotic climes, but these artists have struck upon an aesthetic that heads in the opposite direction from sun-kissed lands and finds beauty in a cold, harsh environment. Considering the name of the label and the fact the majority of artists hail from Sweden, how much of this mental imagery is supposition? A lot of it, but not without merit, as Scandinavian Swords II demonstrates.

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Convextion – 2845

The cover art on 2845 from self-proclaimed “longest-established living space artist in the West” David Hardy features a space ship headed for an unknown world. It perfectly reflects the direction that Gerard Hanson has chosen for this his second album as Convextion. Championed for the past two decades by a steadily growing and always fiercely loyal fan base for his sporadic and sleek, deep techno releases as Convextion and evocative electro as E.R.P., the Dallas producer now pushes the former project farther.

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Best Available Technology – Twisted Ladder

Portland’s Kevin Palmer launched his own label, Working Nights, in 2014 after a series of releases for the likes of London’s Astro:Dynamics, Styles Upon Styles and Further Records. Working Nights is an all-too fitting title for Palmer’s music, as he’s previously alluded to “doing much of his production work in the small hours when his family are asleep.” The label first started out in familiar BAT territory with a series of cassette releases, beginning with the promising Gallery Tape. Two further Working Nights cassettes followed this year, and this newest offering, Twisted Ladder, marks the self-described ‘low key’ label’s first vinyl release.

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The Chi Factory – The Bamboo Recordings

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When discussing his original concept for ambient, Brian Eno has always emphasised not only the evocative, atmospheric nature of the music itself, but its relationship with the environment. Eno’s primary concern was, according to interviews, the relationship between the music and the space in which it is listened to. Over the years, many musicians and producers have interpreted this slightly differently, using field recordings to intrinsically link studio-based recordings with the places and spaces that initially inspired them.

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NHK yx Koyxen – Doom Steppy Reverb

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Diagonal has never really been the place for techno, but by bending, warping and crunching the genre out of shape it can fit; like a parallelogram bashed to shape a nonagon. It’s these broken remnants and off cuts from the misfitting pieces that Diagonal celebrates, with Kohei Matsunaga, whose music as NHK yx Koyxen has always managed skirt the edges between what’s considered functional for the dancefloor and totally leftfield, delivering the label its most concentrated album of ‘club music’ yet.

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Vakula – Cyclicality Between Procyon And Gomeisa

Ukrainian producer Vakula first touched-down with his 2008 Hohol E.P on Uzuri, incorporating rhythmic tribal textures with traditional club sounds. Since then he’s continued to develop a brand of house and techno framed within the warming, ephemeral comfort of experimental music. His first full-length album, You’ve Never been to Konotop (Selected Works 2009-2012), showcased some excellent wide-ranging oddities, with the subsequent album continuing to make ranges into interesting territory. What I’ve felt lacking from the previous albums is a consistent narrative, rather opting to present a collection of tracks that don’t necessarily add up to a complete whole. The same can be said for his most recent release on Dekmantel, Cyclicality between Procyon & Gomeisa, a record that fails to maintain any continuity but still demonstrates an inherent musicianship from a talented producer.

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The 7th Plain – Chronicles 1

The Orb, Higher Intelligence Agency and Mixmaster Morris are usually reeled off whenever the phrase ‘90s ambient techno’ enters a conversation. This is as it should be as those artists contributed greatly to the emergence of that sound. However, one name that should always be part of that grouping is Luke Slater. It is hard to comprehend that around the time that he was releasing the white-knuckle intensity of records like X-Tront Volume 2 or In From the Night, the UK producer was also making wonderfully introspective electronic music as The 7th Plain.

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Equiknoxx – Bird Sound Power

From an outside perspective any genre can seem constrained by its formulas. A sardonic passer-by would claim house beats all sound the same, ambient is a generic mush of lift music and all metal is the same old dirge of screaming vocals and distorted guitars. Dancehall is no different, with plenty of familiar tropes that producers adhere to – after all, what would musical trends be without some kind of common stylistic approach? I have to profess that I am no authority on dancehall, but I know that unmistakable offbeat drum machine groove when I hear it.

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The Head Technician – Zones

Following on from Abul Mogard’s stunning Works collection, Ecstatic delivers another unexpected project.  Martin Jenkins is better known for his prolific ambient / experimental work as Pye Corner Audio and has delivered ten albums under this name in the past six years. Now he turns his attention to a new project, The Head Technician, and Zones is its first release.

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Dices + AEM Rhythm Cascade – Thoughtstream

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There’s something about the labels that come out of Glasgow. Diverse though they may be, the likes of Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Tabernacle, All Caps, hell even Optimo and Numbers, are all bound together by a similar penchant for meaningful presentation and an assured conviction in the music they release. In other words, they’re all ‘proper’ labels, with an aesthetic you want to sign up to in a declaration of fandom, for no other reason than the fantastic job they make of being a label. 12th Isle comes along at a time when music from Scotland’s cultural capital garners respect like never before, and it immediately projects that same self-assured quality that makes you fill out another entry on your over-subscribed mental watch list for releases the label bosses haven’t even begun to imagine yet.

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Ma Spaventi – Isola Sommersa

Ma Spaventi comes from the same Amsterdam hub that has spawned labels like Delsin and MOS as well as a myriad of sub-labels and offshoot projects. There is no shortage of deep techno coming from these Dutch labels and through his mastering work, Spaventi is further invested in this scene. As a producer, he faces the major challenge of having to differentiate himself in a crowded field.

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Proto – Vitamin Tracs

Some music is so delicate it requires you to turn the volume up considerably, just so it can fill the space where something bolder or more brash might have been playing before. It’s interesting considering this when listening to Proto’s Vitamin Tracs, a collection of six tracks primarily aimed for cassette consumption. It’s a mini-album of clean, subtle, looping shapes for the most part, not least on Side A, and as such one imagines the mechanics of the format will inevitably become part of the music as a tape copy wears itself out.

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