There’s a strain of UK electronica that always seems to get overlooked, despite the fact that it sports some of the most fun, accessible and interesting ideas to emerge from the post-Warp fall out. It’s a curious beast that draws upon the full-bodied colour and grind of electro, the limber crate-digging drum funk of hip hop and broken beat, and the developed and emotive melodic nous of classical composition. You would have heard it on Aphex Twin’s Analord series, the criminally ignored Dave Monolith output on Rephlex, or the ADR album Chunky Monkey on Hippos In Tanks.
It’s impressive to think that since he first emerged as Kassem Mosse in 2006, Gunnar Wendel’s work under the name really hasn’t changed all that much. His music may vary wildly in tempo, and some may veer closer to full-on techno while others may be more self-consciously house, but his productions are unmistakably dense. While his music may not be as intricate as that of Actress, as filled with the same kind of unrestrained joy as that of Omar S, or as classically deep as Theo Parrish, he’s a producer equally as respected as any of those figures. Like them, and a select few others, Wendel is proof that in a business where many lesser artists are willing to switch styles to pander to an easily bored public and press, a well-honed aesthetic often captures something the imagination better than any amount of stylistic genre-hopping ever could.
The concept behind the Acid Arab project – well known and obscure producers creating thrilling new cross-cultural fusions, inspired by music from the East – is both easy-to-follow and devilishly good. It may not necessarily be a brand new idea, but it’s one with almost limitless potential. It makes perfect sense. Technically speaking, much music from the Orient and the East (from North Africa across to the Indian sub-continent, via the Middle East) is particularly hypnotic, designed to create a trance-like state in those who dance to it. Acid house – particularly in its purest form, circa the early years of Phuture and Armando – shares this aim. The rhythmic patterns and instruments used may be different, but the end result is the same. Hypnotic grooves and rush-inducing builds have the same effect, regardless of how and where they were made.
This is what reissue culture should be all about. In the tidal surge of techno that leaves myriads of records scattered across the world in its wake, there is always an abundance of mythical gems littered amongst the flotsam and jetsam. Most artists with a career more than ten years long have a discography populated with plentiful near misses, incidental labels, fleeting ideas and chance pressings. Before the fact, no-one involved really knows if a release will be the one that bites, and so some much-pressed timeless classics can be snapped up now for 50 pence while others ignite a ferocious mark-up mentality through scarcity and reputation.
The 74th installment of Fabric’s mix series is a masterclass in house music Djing. Compiled and mixed by Dave ‘Move D’ Moufang, it sees the respected German DJ and producer draw on old and new records, obscurities and exclusives to create a simmering, soulful set. If you’re looking for a collection of sound-alike, Martin Luther King-sampling jams, this is not for you. On fabric 74, Moufang’s selection is subtle and discerning, with no big, obvious tunes getting in the way.
Russell Haswell’s new album for Powell’s Diagonal Records is framed rather amusingly by the label as “Haswell puts a donk on it”. Haswell’s sonic experiments – whether in the live context or on record – are generally the kind of thing seemingly devoted to the sheer physicality of noise and sound, balanced with a more analytical ear. Having said that, it’s an appropriate turn of phrase for an artist whose work also doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously – much like that of Powell himself.
It’s an unfortunate by-product of their success that four years into its lifespan as a label, L.I.E.S. have become a lazy reference point for the less imaginative corners of the content farm. “Gritty industrial techno or raw house? It sounds like it should be on L.I E.S. mate.” It’s just as personally vexing as people throwing out the word ‘Dilla-esque’ to describe some sweetly soulful MPC beats because hey, everyone loves Dilla, right buddy? Much like last year’s KWC 92 LP or the Unicursal Hexagram set by Jahiliyya Fields, the first album project of 2014 for L.I.E.S. forms another perfect riposte to those who claim the label’s oeuvre can be condensed to just a few ragged stylistic tropes.
From the moment the sirens come pealing out of the nerve-shredding opening track, you can tell something is up in the world of Untold. Presenting his first long-player after amassing a sizable body of work since he first came to ground in 2008, there was always going to be an element of uncertainty as to how a producer such as Jack Dunning would approach the album format. From the outset it’s clear that he’s looking to make a statement. There has always been a sense that Dunning’s music strives to stand apart from the surrounding environment, even as he emerged swept up in the rapidly fracturing dubstep zeitgeist. From the wayward arc of his single output, Black Light Spiral appears to have been seized upon as a chance to truly let rip with challenging postulations of what bass-driven music can be in the contemporary climate.
As it celebrates its first decade, Omar-S puts out the first in a series of mixes comprising material from his FXHE label. It’s hard to see this release appealing to fans of the label and its owner’s output, who will already own a lot if not all of the records that feature here. Maybe Smith is seeking out the casual listener who doesn’t have the inclination to search out FXHE releases? If that is his intention, as well as celebrating ten years of the label, then the Detroit DJ has succeeded in creating a mix that captures the listener’s attention throughout.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to think about Ali Wells’ music as anything other than explicitly political. Despite the problematic nature of drawing any parallels between the declining standards of living in the country and an increased enthusiasm for so-called “industrial” techno and darker strands of electronic music as a whole, it would be hard not to see track titles such as “London We Have You Surrounded” from his debut album and “Cash 4 Gold” from 2012’s A New Brutality EP as anything less than a reflection of his own unease at the economic and political conditions the UK is facing after the boom years.
Acid Test surely stands as one of the most reliable outposts for high-quality continuations of the exploratory path started by Phuture with “Acid Tracks”. The offshoot of Absurd Recordings has been careful in its selection of artists they choose to represent on the label, making smart choices in the likes of Pepe Bradock and Tin Man for results that take the much loved and well-trodden 303 into pastures new, which is no mean feat more than twenty five years after it first cast its squelching shadow over dance music.
Sometimes when a record gets reissued or a compilation is released, there is a quote on the sleeve that inevitably calls it “an essential piece of history”. While it’s meant with good intentions, this kind of phrasing can also come across as a bit of a passive aggressive jab - another way of saying “we’ve moved on” or “sure, this used to be important, but look how far we’ve come since then”. When it comes to Hardcore Traxx, the first ever Strut-released Dance Mania compilation, those kinds of sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, the first thing that hits you when listening to the twenty four tracks culled from the Roy Barney’s massive 300+ release catalogue is how absolutely contemporary everything still sounds.
Before going into At Disconnected Moments let’s not forget that Stephan Laubner has released on Echocord and echospace [detroit], the greatest dub techno labels since Basic Channel, and Perlon, the Basic Channel of microhouse. Outside of this he’s done the odd few things for Smallville while his own Something is a pillar of inspiration for anyone that wants to run their own label their own way. But a STL album, does it really mean anything right now? Of course it does, but to put it into perspective, he’s released around 15 of them, and way too many EPs in between to talk about. The thing is, when it comes to putting out quality records on the regular, the DJ can always rely on STL – so why should this album be any different?. Everyone has a “Loop” A, B or C by the German beatmaker stashed away in their record collection somewhere (a locked groove is a trademark of each physical STL release).
Sound Pellegrino used to exist as a digital-only label at a time where it was damn precarious to do so – just before the great “blog-haus gold rush” of the late 2000′s, an age when artists rose to internet fame overnight and were forgotten just as quickly. It was a brief blip where everyone and their photo blog had a digital label and made t-shirts for it before they released any music – a time when gaining the #1 spot on Hype Machine seemed certain to ensure a long and industrious musical career. Of course, most of these poorly thought out digital labels had the same longevity as an energetic puppy in a minefield. The fact that Sound Pellegrino has endured that era and thrived speaks to the label’s great versatility, but also to its sense of community. The way that they picked up the pieces after the French label Institubes was dismantled while also giving oddballs and newcomers a prominent spotlight felt altruistic – even if the Russian torrent sites got to it before the paying customers, Sound Pellegrino cared enough about the stuff they put out to proudly release it anyway.
The Black Mill Tapes first emerged in 2010, starting a series that introduced listeners to the world of Pye Corner Audio, with The Head Technician’s flair for otherworldly sounds hooking listeners throughout the next four years. Although the initial recordings were self-released in digital format, they were later issued on both cassette and vinyl, with Further Records responsible for the former service and a double LP edition was released on Type in 2012. Now, the Massachusetts-based Type again perform an excellent civic duty in releasing the Black Mill Tapes Vol. 3 & 4 on double vinyl, not least because the fourth volume is filled with all new Pye Corner Audio material.
If Meakusma had already positioned itself as a leftfield proposition with its output including material from Terrence Dixon and Madteo, this new album from Georgia confirms it as an experimental outpost of note. The duo, comprised of Brian Close and Justin Tripp, have previously only released one collection of sound recordings, Asemic Club on their own Georgia Sounds imprint, although their accomplishments stretch back to high brow audio-visual collaborations with David Byrne and Lee Perry amongst others.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Ghettoville doesn’t make itself easy to like. Making this kind of statement in relation to Darren Cunningham’s vast and occasionally bewildering body of work seems fairly obvious – after all, he’s made a very successful name for himself out of making music that actively seeks to challenge his listeners, but Ghettoville really wants you to work for it. Next to the inexorable crawl through a bleakly imagined tableau of urban decay that is Ghettoville, the disorientating tone poems of 2012’s R.I.P sound almost like Radio 1 playlist material.
For someone whose DJ alias is based on a massive 300 million year old supercontinent, it’s not surprising that Pangaea (Kevin McAuley) is interested in big spaces. After crafting Resident Advisor’s 333rd podcast back in 2012, he provided some pointers on the atmosphere that inspired the mix, stating that it takes place in “this imaginary location. It’s remote, outdoors in the countryside somewhere and the weather is nice… there’s a great sound system, space to move….”
Released on Dekorder, Lurists is a joint effort from Heatsick’s Stephen Warwick, Richard Youngs and Luke Fowler. Although the project materialised in one day, these three musicians have crossed paths before; Luke Fowler and Richard Youngs have worked together on many occasions in the past, and Warwick and Fowler shared bills with their bands Birds of Delay and Lied Music. While Heatsick was touring Glasgow, the three met in Fowler’s studio before the gig, resulting in a mini-LP release consisting of three long tracks of playful experimentation.
The last two bodies of work from the one producer met with as much fervour as this year’s Prince Of Denmark and Traumprinz albums was probably Andy Stott’s iconic Passed Me By and We Stayed Together double pack for Modern Love. And while Traumprinz Of Denmark’s two LPs didn’t signal a change in musical direction like it did Stott in 2011, it well and truly put the reclusive German on the map.