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.
Bruce, let’s get this out of the way first; I’m a fan of your name. It has all the comfy familiarity that hooks into a long lineage of Hessle producers ousting pretensions and easy to roll off the tongue at a moment’s notice. Honestly, Ben, David and Kevin talk of being particularly selective and difficult to unanimously please when selecting which records make the cut for their label, sitting on records for months in order to see if they’re a fit for Hessle or not, but I think there’s a formula at play here. New producers – call yourself Dave or Terry and you’ll be on the fast-track to success. Probably. Possibly.
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.
For those used to the sharp edges and alien signals of Pev’s output, this collaborative release with fellow Bristolian Andy Mac will probably come as something of a surprise. Mac has already proven himself with the killer Everytime and Regular & Irregular releases on Punch Drunk and Idle Hands, leaning more naturally towards house tempos and grooves even if he’s shown a propensity for some intriguing textures and atmospheres along the way. Pev meanwhile has hinted at a house strand to his output in the past, most notably with his sublime remix of Typesun’s “Heart Maths”.
While Golf Channel has been consistently more interesting than the coma-inducing television network it garners its name from, the two entities do share some characteristics. After all, if there’s been one constant over the last seven years of Phil South’s New York-centric label, it would seem to be the way Golf Channel embraces relaxation. This isn’t a substitute term for ‘boring’ by any means – while often breezy and ethereal, there’s solid dancefloor sensibility inscribed in the best Golf Channel slow burners, which makes the drawn out culmination of Justin Vandervolgen’s edits or DJ Nature’s electronic ballads all the more satisfying.
The reissue market is such a riot these days, sometimes you have no idea how on earth people’s imaginations get captured by certain records. It’s a riot, but it’s also a lot of fun: rather than kneeling devotedly before the monument of a record you’ve been hunting for for years, you get to listen through and go mmm, okay, and? My first encounter with Pink and Black’s Sometimes I Wish was, I must confess, one of those. I found it immediately lovely but I failed to see why it was important to hear it again. Then I listened again, and again, and again, and my conclusion is that precisely because it isn’t particularly memorable, or maverick, or rare we should listen to it. It’s sort of… ‘exemplary’. It’s a great example of what English synth-pop – and of what loads of English synth-pop – used to be.
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.
In the Juno Plus label profile of Tabernacle last year, it was clear that the people behind the label have a deep and wide-reaching knowledge of and passion for various electronic music forms. Even a cursory glance at Tabernacle’s back catalogue makes it quite clear that they bring this passion to bear on their label. While some of their peers might profess a love of underground electro, few have the conviction to actually release it. In fact, most people running labels these days would probably view deep, esoteric electro as a form of commercial suicide.
Hailing from Minneapolis and with a spread of aliases and releases behind him, Ian Lehman has only been operating as Doubt for the past twelve months, and after strong salvos of techno delivered on Mistress and Disposable Communities he’s now been snapped up by Don’t Be Afraid to throw down four tracks that see him pushing his sound into more distinctive realms. It makes sense really, as the UK label has always sought to coax out the more playful and intriguing characteristics in its chosen artists, and while the earlier Doubt singles showed promised they were also somewhat in thrall to more typical techno tropes.
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.
Judging any artist on the strength of their early releases is fraught with danger. While they may have spent years cultivating a trademark style prior to securing that elusive debut, they could just have easily struck lucky. A first 12” featuring four almighty cuts might be the sum total of their completed tracks, or at least the best of a largely mediocre bunch. Of course, such early explorations can hint at greatness, or at least suggest the producer – or producers – in question have, to coin an old cliché, “something about them”. It might be a keen grasp of atmosphere, a desire to mix things up, or an innate sense of what works on a dancefloor. By the same measure, it might be a glimpse of their influences or a sure-footedness about their production that most catches the ear.
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.
There’ll always be something romantic attached to a 7” release. They’re cheap (and cheerful) to manufacture, and due to their smaller surface area there’s less music to hear – this still doesn’t stop garage rock bands from Melbourne squeezing what they can onto a record. And if it’s not rare funk, soul or dub, it’s going to be for the most part, at least in the world of independent electronic music, something creatively askew, often born out of budget restriction or artistic aberration.
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 always interesting to observe well-established event promoters branching out into the label world. Quite often those responsible are in an enviable position, having forged real-world relationships with their guests over the years and as such being able to call up a favour to give a fledgling label the kind of kick start that can make all the difference in an ever-increasing world of 001s. It’s fair to say that Manchester collective meandyou were able to do just that in snapping up Kassem Mosse for their first release, and in truth he gave them an absolute beast of a track, but they offset that by showcasing lesser known talents as well as their own local heroes Juniper. It was a wise move to reach for a well-known friend, and the results were exemplary, but on this second release all bets are off as the curation draws on a list of lesser-known acts and as such places the music out front.
Where to start with this record? If you are familiar with the work of Juju & Jordash and the various projects around them, then you know not to expect anything near staid, immobile, impeccably polished house or techno. But still it’s hard for someone with very little in the way of musical ability (hello, me) to quantify all the ideas and processes that have gone into these three tracks from Jordan Czamanski. Given the general fun loving nature of Future Times, Digitalis could be seen as quite a bold move, but who wants to see a label treading the same waters?
Two years is a long time in electronic music. In the 24 months since Luke Blair delivered his last record as Lukid – the Ninja Tune/Werkdiscs released Lonely at the Top LP – the musical landscape has changed considerably. In particular, Blair’s trademark sound – raw, distorted, unsettling and dreamy, with gritty textures and almost overbearing tape hiss – has become the norm, in techno and experimental electronic circles, at least. Where he could once have been considered a leader in this field, he is now merely one of many pushing a sound that contrasts melodious intent with redlined drums, dystopian textures and crusty production.
There may not have been much good news out of Ireland in the past few years, but the health of the country’s electronic music scene has certainly been one of them. Despite or perhaps because of the recession – it all depends whom you believe – the small country that this writer calls home is seriously punching above its weight. From Lunar Disko’s Chicago and electro jams to Apartment’s leftfield house and All City’s psychedelic take on house and techno – do check the forthcoming LP from The Cyclist for the Dublin label – to Earwiggle’s extreme but individualistic take on harder techno and Lakker/Eomac’s skewed rhythms. Irish labels and producers are making some of the world’s best electronic music right now.