Peder Mannerfelt has always been Peder Mannerfelt, only he’s generally been known as The Subliminal Kid or as one half of Roll The Dice. So with Swedish techno experiencing a purple patch of production at the moment with the likes of Northern Electronics introducing Varg and Acronym to a broader audience, while labels like Kontra-Musik go from strength to strength with each release – and don’t forgot we’ll always have Skudge – it seems now is the perfect time for Mannerfelt to break through. As The Subliminal Kid, the Swede’s productions for labels like Ann Aimee, Still Music and the short lived F suggest there’s an alive and breathing modular system pumping through them, similar to the techno you’d hear from someone like Freerotation festival’s Steevio or the Modular Cowboy label. Producing under his real name however, Mannerfelt’s experiments in synthesis have taken a turn, not necessarily away from the dancefloor, but into an uncharted world of sonic experimentation.
It’s been a while since Juju & Jordash brought it back home to Dekmantel. With their excursions on Golf Channel, some fine remixes and continued live and recorded explorations with Move D as Magic Mountain High, Gal Aner and Jordan Czamanski have certainly not been resting on their laurels since they dropped their last LP Techno Primitivism on the Dutch label they hold a strong affiliation to. The duo’s evolution has been a particularly measured one, perhaps in keeping with their instrument-led approach to electronic music. Where many artists can take their ‘sound’ through wild peaks and troughs as a reaction to new technology feeding into their creative practices, Juju & Jordash have instead matured gently from their first appearances on Real Soon and their self-titled debut LP. The influences and intentions have remained much the same, but their control over their machines has refined over time; a fact which is apparent listening to this upfront two tracker.
For those of us out there that are less creatively blessed, prolific musicians can take on fairly intimidating dimensions, and Oliver Ho is one such example. The British producer has spent the best part of two decades servicing the record shops and dancefloors of the world with his various strands of techno, and more recently has begun to exhibit signs that his creative talents stretch beyond pounding kick drums. ProgramME, the 2012 album as The Eyes In The Heat he released alongside Zizi Kanaan offered a fragmented viewing into some of Ho’s other influences, but was perhaps a bit too polished despite the best of intentions. Yet here he resurfaces as Broken English Club, finding a perfect home on the Jealous God label, and this four-track release only seemingly touches the surface of a vast catalogue of unreleased material under the name.
There’s not much to report on Bristol’s Rhythmic Theory when it comes to identity politics: Several releases on his/her/their eponymous label showcase spacey, enveloping wormhole techno cuts that will make Pev & Kowton fans perk their ears up, but we get nothing resembling a backstory or biography. Then again, when you’re listening to the latest release on The Kelly Twins helmed Happy Skull label, you get the sense that context might be beside the point. Instead, the emphasis here is purely on the functionality of the tracks: two unexpected brutish surges of corrosive techno that come barrelling out of the darkness to smack the listener right in the cochlea.
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.
Weevil Neighbourhood is such a nice name for a label. It paints the imagination with a picture of a busy eco-system hard at work; various breeds of beetles filing in and out of their self-built burrows, others dangling off plants, while bigger ones push dung up sandy molehills. Something else that adds character to the Weevil Neighbourhood, beside its bespoke vinyl packaging and often ominous sounds, is it personalises each catalogue number rather than bar-coding it. It may only be a nuance (of the many they have), but it’s a sweet touch. So for instance, instead of Anthone’s previous releases looking something like WNH004 and WNH005, it was DOTS and GRIDS. So for this Breath / Lungs 12”, naturally it’s AIR with the words ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ etched on to each side’s run out groove.
Personally speaking, there’s no doubt that Africaine 808 made some of the most startling and enjoyable electronic music of 2013. Having first appeared on the DJ Muscle series from WT Records last Spring with the pleasingly woozy, humid and intoxicating “Tummy Tummy” – a booming but tactile fusion of wide-eyed electronic melodies, pulsating bottom end, clattering analogue drums and African chanting – the previously unheralded duo went on to drop two superb EPs of their own. Both of these – the Future Times-goes-African tropical house of Cobijas, and the expansive global electronic-organic fusion of the Exotica EP – remain amongst the most inventive and downright thrilling 12” singles of recent times.
After reaching a sizable portion of the leftfield house-consuming populace with last year’s Devonian Garden EP, Cloudface makes a logical move from Mood Hut to London’s Going Good imprint, a label that has already dealt with fellow Mood Hut dwellers Aquarian Foundation. Aside from the logistical links, there is a spirit to Cloudface’s music that shares much with the other artists on Going Good, not least Moon B. The start of Wyre Drive, at least in this reissued running order tweaked from the previous Nice Up Intl cassette release in 2012, is brimming with romantic space balladry as spoken through crusty machines. It’s a theme that ran through Devonian Garden as well, packed full of winsome synth lines rounded out with a hint of sadness but generally warming to the soul.
Having spent a portion of his life as a session musician for legends like Chic and Prince, Alex Israel is also responsible for the somewhat bizarre hip hop alias Rich Heebner, a name under which he’s released a voluminous amount of SoundCloud demos. You’d think that such an eclectic output might mean that the Chicago-based, Detroit-influenced producer’s allegiance might rest with some form of mainstream pop music, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a 2012 interview with Little White Earbuds, Israel expressed fatigue with poppy sounds, sighing “I can’t even take stuff anymore if it’s not rough and tumble, I lose interest.” Israel certainly knows himself better than I do, but I disagree with his quote. Maybe he meant that in terms of consuming or listening to new music, he can only stomach sinewy, wrong-side-of-the-tracks scowling analogue house these days, but as for the music he makes? Pop sounds seem to be an essential underpinning.
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.
The Mister Saturday Night label began as a reflection of the musical talent in attendance at the long running party of the same name, but the scope has gradually widened into more of an international concern with the artists featured no doubt introduced to Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter on their increasingly frequent worldwide travels. After several dalliances with Irish producers, the latest Mister release sees attention switched to Glasgow and a new name in General Ludd, though the individuals behind it have a pedigree you should be familiar with.
Firmly entrenched in the new wave of outboard racket-makers, Karen Gwyer has already given us a considerable body of work to consume considering the fact that in 2012 she had but one cassette release to her name. Buffeted on the winds of No Pain In Pop she has since issued a debut album (the excellent Needs Continuum), a long-form cassette for Opal Tapes, and collaborated with Luke Wyatt (in his Torn Hawk guise) for some reworking of her own material. Now she’s back on No Pain in Pop with a ranging EP that shirks edited-down focus in favour of broad strokes as two seventeen minute tracks sandwich a brief interlude in a fit of electronic abandon.
They don’t happen too often but there’s nothing like that rush of adrenaline to the head when you hear a great, inspirational record. The moment this writer heard Love Repetitive Rhythmics, it brought to mind the emotions felt when first experiencing all the other records that are cherished and personally held dear. Maybe it’s because there’s something charmingly naïve about it or perhaps it’s because both tracks are straightforwardly arranged without sounding too simplistic.
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.