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Albert Van Abbe – Champagne Palestine

It has taken Albert Van Abbe fifteen years to put out his debut album, but it’s been worth the wait. The Dutch producer has always approached techno with one ear in tune with the dance floor and the other focused on experimentation, and Champagne Palestine is no exception. Van Abbe’s concept for the album revolves around a dream-like story that unfolds in the Middle East, but the listener shouldn’t let this narrative get in the way of what is a fine, experimental techno album.

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TM404 – Acidub

As the rush of rediscovered excitement around hardware practices settles to a steady hum, it feels like there is a growing acceptance that it really is OK to use any tools you like to make your music; it’s the content that counts. That won’t stop people having their preferred workflows and waxing lyrical about them, but at least now the analogue dogma can resign to the same redundant pocket of hype-driven chest-beating that laptop-jockeying digital evangelists adopted once DAWs and plug-ins could stand up to the capabilities of drum machines and synthesisers.

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Spike – Orange Cloud Version

Remix albums have long been an established part of dance music culture, with roots stretching back to the instrumental dub albums of the 1970s, and the post-disco dancefloor collections of the early ‘80s. Over the years, the format has given us some genuine gems – Imagination’s Night Dubbing, Gwen Guthrie’s Padlock, The League Unlimited Orchestra’s Love & Dancing, and Massive Attack’s No Protection, to name four that quickly spring to mind – but also some badly conceived fluff. For every well thought out set full of brilliantly inventive but respectful revisions, there are ten or more collections designed primarily with sales and marketing in mind.

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Kane Ikin – Modern Pressure

While we may be living in a time of plenty for experimental music, it’s easy to forget in the surge of snarling overtones and lo-fi charms what wonders can be communicated through truly pristine production. Sometimes the notion of clear, well-mixed and detailed production can be mistaken for a lack of soul, and in some cases that might be right. It’s hard to get a thrill out of anodyne music-by-numbers fashioned out of a collection of vanilla sounds, but equally signal chain grit and leaning heavy on the gains isn’t a shortcut to creative excellence.

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IORI – Cold Radiance

Hailing from Okinawa, now-Tokyo-based producer IORI once cut his teeth as an assistant for David Mancuso’s revered party, The Loft, in New York City, where he learnt a meticulous sonic mentality from his audiophile mentor. This permeates his carefully-handled arrangements, which have helped make his name and define a series of spacey, atmospheric originals and remixes for proponent imprints like Phonica and Prologue to name but a few. Two years after his floor-focused, full-bodied contributions to the Collection compilation, he makes a return to Field with his second album Cold Radiance, throwing himself into an almost beatless excursion. It is an answer to the Dutch label, which called for IORI to explore his experimental and ambient side.

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Max D – Boost

It may have been three years since Andrew Field-Pickering’s last full-length excursion, the RVNG-released Woo, but the Washington D.C-based producer could hardly be accused of slacking. In that time, he’s released a series of 12” singles expanding on his now familiar skewed, new age-influenced, leftfield house template. These have included a dash of sweaty, rave and jungle-influenced madness for Hot Haus (“Highlife”), an EP of out-there ambient jazz for The Trilogy Tapes, another collection of fizzing drum machine jams under the Dolo Percussion alias, a deep and picturesque broken beat excursion on Berceuse Heroique, and a typically eccentric, Detroit techno influenced outing for Off Minor. As if that wasn’t enough, he also found time to explore experimental electronica, jazz and ambience for PAN as band leader of the acclaimed Lifted collective.

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Sam Kidel – Disruptive Muzak

During the late 1940s and early ‘50s, America’s Muzak Corporation established a program known as “Stimulus Progression”. Rather creepily, this existed to develop music designed to alter behaviour, be it enticing shoppers into longer, slower browsing sessions, or making factory workers more productive. While the “Stimulus Progression” program was abandoned decades ago, its’ principles continue to drive the development of piped mood music.

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Trux – Trux

It’s hard enough keeping up with latest developments of your umpteen favourite artists and labels and collectives and scenes and sub genres and so forth, without even batting an eyelid at the more ambiguous or downright anonymous entrants into the great unending modern music surge. A casual pause for thought about the amount of hot new shit by first time artists coming out on little known labels is enough to send a devoted music lover into a mouth-frothing frenzy, haunted by the thought of that cult pressing being snapped up by perma-connected internet seekers, soon to be an ultra-rare classic of rarified perfection.

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Various Artists – Compassion Crew Presents… Compassion Cuts, Tapes & Acetates

In an age when finding obscure music is easier than ever before, you have to admire those who go that extra mile to unearth hidden gems. In theory, anyone with an Internet connection, disposable income and enough time on their hands could discover long overlooked “buried treasure”, but very few then take the time and effort to track down the music’s creators in order to license and re-issue these forgotten releases. Congratulations, then, must go to Irish DJ, producer and record collector Compassion Crew, an artist whose previous releases for Running Back, Dolly and Horn Wax outlined an eccentric, atmospheric and left-of-centre approach to house and techno productions.

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Omar-S – The Best

There is no doubt that Omar-S has had a transformative effect on Detroit’s scene and by default the global electronic music landscape. His FXHE label has supported and nurtured new house music talent like Kyle Hall, Marcellus Pittman, Kai Alce and O B Ignitt while also providing an outlet for his own distinctive sound. Most impressively, he has achieved all of this without the benefit of PR campaigns or by persistently whoring his wares on social media. Instead, he reaches out to fans and DJs alike, selling both vinyl and digital through the FXHE website. He also benefits from that most authentic technique that few are capable of – and simply lets his music do the talking.

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Disco Mantras – Disco Mantras Vol. 1

Over the last 12 months, Vancouver’s Mood Hut collective has subtly begun to shift its musical focus. Famously, the label’s runaway was built on delivering dusty, undeniably baked music that drew influence from early analogue deep house, vintage new age music, and the morning after pulse of early ‘90s ambient house. It was a refreshing approach, but rather unsurprisingly has inspired a raft of imitators.Their answer was to widen their approach.

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MGUN – Gentium

After a flurry of releases during 2012 and 2013, Manuel ‘MGUN’ Gonzales took a few steps back. The US producer’s last material was out on Don’t Be Afraid in 2014 and he didn’t put out any records last year. This silence could be due to concerns about burning out, but it could also be in preparation for the release of Gentium, his debut album.

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Dorisburg – Irrbloss

‘Irrbloss’ is Swedish for the natural phenomenon known in English as a will-o’-the-wisp, a ghostly light that hovers over swampland. Heavily referenced in folklore, it was thought to be a fairy or undeparted soul acting as a fickle beacon for travellers, leading them to safety or to a murky demise. In a recent interview, Dorisburg said, “I am attracted to that which lies on the border between the beautiful and the unknown.” His music is located in this liminal space where beauty is inextricable from danger. The folkloric slant hints at the undercurrents of mysticism in his sound.

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Kettel – Wingtip

Despite a bulging back catalogue stuffed full of melodious electronic treats, IDM veteran Reimer “Kettel” Eising has struggled for wider recognition. While this may be a reflection of the obscurity of the labels he’s released on – one 7” on Planet Mu aside, he’s largely worked with imprints run by friends from the Dutch electro scene, such as Sending Orbs and Djax-Up-Bitch – it’s still a little surprising given the undoubted quality of his material.

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Dalhous – The Composite Moods Collection Vol.1: House Number 44

Dalhous pair Marc Dall and Alex Ander have been quite the fascinating outfit ever since that The Night of the Burning EP released as Young Hunting in 2011, whose horror-soaked difficult dance contributed so aptly to the aura around Blackest Ever Black as the label sewed the seeds of its mystique. Their sophisticated and uncategorisable electronics seem to hinge on an odd and very alluring combination of aesthetics: abstract yet narrative, theatrical yet introverted, they’re goths but they’re minimalists, they’re punks and they’re aristocrats. Closer in vein to their Lost, Discarded or Simply Forgotten demos heard recently on tap, Composite Moods Collection Vol.1 inaugurates a new series and confirms Dalhous as sonic investigators of the complexities of the self.

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Alessandro Adriani – Montagne Trasparenti

Alessandro Adriani may not be a household name, but he is the brains behind the Mannequin label, an outlet that has done arguably more than any other to unearth obscure wave and industrial music, often with an Italian focus. While other reissue labels dance across a multiplicity of emotions from the same time period, Mannequin’s default setting appears to rest on the gloomy, morbid and melancholic, witnesses its unearthing of releases like Bourbonese Qualk’s eponymous album and Decadence’s “On and On” –  one of the most tragic pieces of music ever recorded.

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Matt Karmil – IDLE033  

Since he emerged as a solo producer in 2013, Matt Karmil has proved difficult to pin down. Within just two years of operation he was responsible for shimmering deep house on International Records, a summery festival anthem on Beats in Space and an album of textured minimal grooves for PNN. In 2015 he turned to darker strains of the 4/4 spectrum, with a string of bass-heavy techno releases for Studio Barnhus and Idle Hands. While it’s never clear where Karmil is going next, what has marked his output to date is an attention to the minutiae of texture and an enviably consistent quality.

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Various Artists – My Love Is Underground Volume 2

There’s more to the art of crate digging than simply hunting down obscure, ultra-rare gems, or even spending half of your monthly salary on a single dusty old 12”. Ask many seasoned diggers, and they’ll tell you that they get just as much satisfaction from discovering overlooked gems, peculiar B-sides or little-championed remixes – especially if you’ve picked up the record in question at a bargain price.

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Secret Boyfriend – Memory Care Unit

When Blackest Ever Black reissued the limited Secret Boyfriend cassette This Is Always Where You’ve Lived back in 2013, it spread the work of Carrboro, North Carolina native Ryan Martin to a much larger audience beyond his vast yet sporadic cassette releases. In conversation with Jane ‘Pharmakon’ Chardiet a couple of years ago, Martin confessed that he usually just dubs his own tapes, and “very sheepishly gives music to people.. but it feels hard to put that sort of attention behind your own project”. His notorious low key label, Hot Releases, is that modern rarity; the epitome of underground music in the digital age. Primarily mail order on limited run formats by similar lo-fi, 4 track indie acts, its nonchalant attitude towards self-promotion and public image is reflected by a rarely maintained social media presence; their Tumblr page hasn’t recorded an update in over a year.

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Woo – Awaawaa

There are numerous reasons for the recent revival of interest in cult British fusionists Woo – not least for their uniquely broad palette of influences and the hard to pigeonhole nature of their material – but the duo’s willingness to open their archives to interested labels has undoubtedly played a part. Until Drag City Records reissued their 1989 sophomore set It’s Cosy Inside back in 2012 (closely followed a year later by an Emotional Response repress of their infamously hard-to-find 1982 debut, Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong), the Wimbledon-raised Ives brothers were only of interest to a handful of in-the-know collectors.

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