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.
Considering they have only released three prior singles ahead of this LP, Latency already has a strong and highly regarded identity amongst the hustle and bustle of young eager labels, not least in the boom of the Parisian scene they emanate from. To be fair, that’s no surprise when the curation to date has snapped up Innerspace Halflife, Joey Anderson and Even Tuell; all names with a sizable clout in the contemporary realms of leftfield house and techno. Having established a strong foundation in this way, it now gives the imprint the opportunity to present a new concern from one of its founders, Sidney Gerard, in conjunction with studio partner of two years Louis Vial, and no doubt people will pay attention.
When impressive Italian label Bosconi first signed Herva – real name Herve Atsi Corti – back in 2011, it was more on his potential than anything else. At the time, Corti was a 19 year-old producer with big ideas, but arguably not the production nous to match. His early solo releases, and those with occasional studio partner Marco D’Aquino under the Life’s Track alias, veered between warm and breezy (see the disco-influenced, loopy deep house of the solo Skin EP) and uncomplicated retro-futurism (much of the material on the first Life’s Track 12”). His 2012 debut album on Bosconi Extra Virgin, Meanwhile in Madland, was certainly promising, filtering fluid deep house and slow jams through a beatsy, Onra-ish filter.
The new album from Young Echo member Vessel comes to life in the splayed drum hits of “Febrile”, and it instantly calls to mind the way in which Nine Inch Nail’s seminal The Downward Spiral staggers into life with “Mr Self Destruct”, minus self-flagellating groans and grunts from Seb Gainsborough. That is no doubt good news for Gainsborough’s physical and mental wellbeing considering the state Trent Reznor got himself into recording his 1994 opus, and while the ensuing first track proper “Red Sex” is very much its own beast, as an immediate first impression the link lingers.
“It is not made up of ‘sketches’, it is not ‘beatless’, it is certainly not ‘downtempo’, the accompanying text is not ‘nonsense’,” JR Seaton said of his debut album, Suzi Ecto, on Twitter, when it was announced a few months ago. “Put very simply, it’s techno.” Though Seaton is usually a man of few words on social media, his outburst was understandable, given his feelings on how the rush to produce content online is leading a reduction in words of overall quality, which he made known in an interview given in February 2014 to Zweikommasieben Magazin. “There’s a difference between the economies of producing this kind of stuff and the amount of content that online publications have to create to sustain themselves. It means that, for the most part, journalists aren’t paid per word anymore,” he said. “They have to produce this many reviews to pay their rent.”
If there’s something I love about what Dark Entries are doing these days it’s the labour of exposing the raw, creaky, rusty sounds of bands which ended up sounding quite polished in their later career, putting on record what we often only heard on CD in the ‘90s ‘first wave’ of reissues. Uno by Kirlian Camera is one such example, shedding light backwards onto a band which has changed many guises since its first efforts, a band which has always been difficult to pin down: industrial moments have followed neo-folk ballads, they have alternated trashy EBM and elegant martial tales, guided by droney sounds or decorated with sparkling electronic bleeps.
As steward of the now defunct Grimetapes blog, Liverpool-born Paul Lynch knows more about grime than most. While his raucous early productions as Slackk might have looked to UK funky for inspiration, it was the incorporation of his primary musical obsession into his music on 2012’s Raw Missions EP for Local Action that was to give his music its signature style. However, like the rest of the crew surrounding the grime-centric Boxed night he had a hand in starting last year, Lynch’s music has used the genre as a jumping-off point rather that a rigid book of rules, and his debut LP, Palm Tree Fire, takes instrumental grime in bold new directions.
The bizarrely named Gut Nose is the latest unheralded artist to benefit from the platform Styles Upon Styles offer, and he’s the first to grace the label with a full artist album (there are 12 more LPs on the way if a testimonial on the Gut Nose bandcamp from SUS boss Phil Tortoroli is to be believed). There’s a clearly defined artistic vision this album, Filthy City, which you feel appealed to Styles upon Styles. Clear in the manner Gut Nose intends it to be heard as opposed to clarity of sound. This studied aesthetic and approach from the producer is nothing new either, even if it’s presented in a different manner here.
There’s always a certain sense of expectation that comes with firing up a Kevin Martin recording for the first time. It’s not simply a presumption of great things (which, depending on your taste, is generally a given), but more a prediction that heavy emotional weight and nerve-shattering experiences lie just around the corner. In any one of his many mighty endeavours, Martin has always gone the extra mile in punching through to the absolute core of the listeners psyche, channelling the physicality of soundsystem culture and the visceral rush of noise and matching it with a devilish ear for the uneasy and haunting. He’s not one for solely darkside behaviour though, as demonstrated in his taste for divine female vocalists in amidst his crushing constructions (ok maybe not Warrior Queen), and so an album title such as Angels & Devils promises a tussle between good and evil, the sacred and profane, on a biblical scale.
Daniel Martin-McCormick’s music as Ital may have changed significantly since his debut in 2011, but it has always been tied to dance music culture’s more sensual side. On his 100% Silk singles he channelled this sensuality through music looking to Paradise Garage-era house and disco, while his albums on Planet Mu took this type of tactile house to more abstract places, using sampled pop vocals to evoke a different kind of sensuality. It’s what’s made Martin-McCormick’s music stand out for so many years; while many of his peers in New York have been wringing ever more grit from their hardware, his sound has been heading in the opposite direction.
After five days at Berlin’s Atonal festival I arrived back in London with a refreshing palate of sound buzzing through my head. If you remove the old school Berlin factor of Monoton and TV Victor from this year’s edition, and the marquee bookings of Abdullah Rashim, Richard H. Kirk and Sendai, left over is a niche clutch of artists like Fis, DSCRD and Neel, to Raster-Noton’s Senking and Danish artist SØS Gunver Ryberg. And with Vatican Shadow a participant of the event last year, there’s no seeing why an established artist as obscurely underground as Lussuria couldn’t be shortlisted for such an opened-minded event in the future.
The crossover between electronica and indie songwriting can be fraught with pitfalls. In its less inspired moments it can find a traditional band set up winding up as a stadium rave outfit, or a niche production team coming off twee and insipid (after all that much maligned folktronica tag was borne out of such grey-area sounds). There’s no need to dwell on the negative though, and Different Fountains demonstrate another successful step forward in the fine lineage of fusion outfits that understand and innately channel both sides of the stylistic divide.
For an artist that has been prolific since the 90s from underground experiments to chart topping festival bangers, it was remarkable how much Roman Flügel’s first album under his own name, 2011’s Fatty Folders, affirmed his reputation amongst the upper echelons of electronic auteurs. It was perhaps one of the first chances to hear the German mainstay cut free of specific conceptual motives (from the refined minimal house of Roman IV to the rabble-rousing techno of Alter Ego) and deliver an album that seemed to come from a more personal artistic mindset. There was still a strong narrative to latch on to, but the expression within the music seemed to come from a more heartfelt place.
Regardless of the claims of critics and musicians, it’s increasingly rare to find a band, producer or collective that does something unique. While plenty of artists are capable of breathing new life into ailing genres, or drawing together disparate influences to create intriguing musical fusions, very few manage to produce work that not only defies easy categorization, but also leaves you desperately searching for a coherent explanation for what you’ve just heard.
There’s something rather fitting about the concept behind this split LP from brothers-in-electronica Martin Jenkins (AKA Pye Corner Audio) and Alessio Natalizia. As the title suggests, it was inspired by the world of espionage, and more specifically the spy rings that criss-crossed the World during the Cold War era, with bed-hopping, double-crossing agents meeting at dawn to exchange information in dark alleys, non-descript cafes and hush-hush safe houses. It’s an era that has already provided ample fodder for authors and scriptwriters, so it makes sense that it would provide inspiration for a pair of producers whose instinctive takes on electronic music more often than not veer on the claustrophobic.
Drew Lustman has always seemed like a man blessed with more musical ideas than he knows what to do with. A cursory trawl through the now sprawling FaltyDL discography seems to confirm this assumption. After starting life making skittish, off-kilter bass music informed by jungle, garage and early British rave music, Lustman settled on a style that delighted in confounding expectations. His first two albums, both released on Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu imprint, were particularly thrilling, offering vivacious, often kaleidoscopic blends of styles shot through with a rush-inducing dedication to dancefloor release.
I’ve seen Dettmann play overtime to an empty club of 15 brave Australians (including bar staff) on a cold Thursday night in Adelaide. I’ve had him outlast me at Berghain, I’ve witnessed him power through 10-straight-hours of 130BPM techno with Ben Klock, and I just saw him play back-to-back with Luke Slater at this year’s Dekmantel Festival. If there’s a DJ I can trust to helm two turntables, some CDJs and a mixer, it’s Dettmann. With the future of the mix CD uncertain, it’s nice to know there are still DJs out there with the ability to rustle up excitement around the release of one. Fabric’s storied series has become the mix CDs main faculty, and Pangaea’s complete thrust into techno music and Move D’s housier edition have kept fabric’s tin packaging in production for another successful year.
Why should electronic music producers be confined to writing solely for the dancefloor? For every dodgy techno ‘concept’ album, there have been a multitude of excellent projects – witness alternative (in form) releases from Regis, Surgeon and more recently Sigha and sometime Nine Inch Nails band member Alessandro Cortini over the past year. It’s heartening to see Ostgut Ton supporting this kind of thinking. After all the label has been one of the most prolific platforms for modern house and techno, so its willingness to give vent to abstract compositions that provided a soundtrack to a ballet last year is welcome.
“We are just images now”. Tony Williams’ recently born project Kline Coma Xero self titled debut for the wonderful Seattle-based Medical Records dispenses such pearls of postmodern thought in large quantities. On other tracks, Williams disembodiedly croons that ‘we’re all mannequins’ (“Mannequins”), that we’re in a ‘casualty ward’ (“Casualty Ward”), that he’s ‘standing in the dark looking for an answer’ (“Silent Call”), or ‘alone in the darkroom’ (“Darkroom”), and finally that there are ‘no windows’ and that hence we are told to ‘turn off the lights / turn off the TV / turn off the thinking’ (“No Windows”).