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.
In a recent R&S Records profile, it was revealed that label founders Renaat Vandepapaliere and Sabine Maes quite literally gave up their careers for a pile of horse crap. Frustrated with the politics of their 90′s major label merger that transformed their passions into a suffocating 9-5 job, the couple escaped the tightening noose of major label bureaucracy by dropping everything and moving out into the country to breed equines (and shovel up after them). Moving out into the country might seem like an incompatible move for a duo that founded one of the 90′s most influential techno labels – after all, dance music has long been the sound of busy industrialism: New Jersey’s mechanical two-step garage house patterns, New York’s blaring bodega radio jams, and the soulful but repetitious thump of Detroit techno.
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.
Sweden: so techno right now. Take in Abdullah Rashim and his Northern Electronics crew, Peder Mannerfelt, SHXCXCHCXSH and all that encompasses Planet Skudge (yes, another sub-label is on the way); these Scandinavians are creating a similar stir to what Italians Donato Dozzy, Dino Sabatini and Lucy did back in 2010. But Andreas Tilliander, a techno authority, has always been in the thick of it, most prominently of late making acid-lines and Roland drum machine sequence in new ways as TM404, or trawling the nethermost depths of atmospheric dub techno as Mokira.
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.
Utter anonymity began as the calling card of the Global Darkness-spawned R-Zone series, and as fun as it is to try and play the perpetual guessing game of discovering which one of your favourite artists contributed the latest slab of wax on the Netherlands-based label, the series has long moved beyond needing any kind of gimmick. 2013 provided nine lightning-paced releases from a bevy of internationally renowned producers, and 2014 seems to be intent on matching that frantic productivity.
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.”
This release doesn’t come as a surprise, but it does see some of the participants taking sideways steps. Solar One Music is The Exaltics’ label and is usually home to various iterations of electro. Similarly, Golden Pudel resident Helena Hauff collaborates with Andreas Gehm to provide a more direct approach to the dance floor than is her wont. While her recent Black Sites release on Panzerkreuz was laden down with acid spirals, the accompanying sound design and supporting rhythms were lo-fi and murky. On this release, the tracks sound more direct and functional. It’s a stretch to say that she has cleaned up her act, but there is definitely a more purposeful approach in her two contributions to Helena Hauff meets Andreas Gehm.
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.
When considering the careers of certain electronic producers, it’s possible to accurately pinpoint their “breakthrough moment”. In some cases, this may be a 12” single that crossed over into the mainstream, a surprise dancefloor anthem or revelatory remix. In other instances, it’s a track, EP or -very occasionally – an album in which they abandoned their trademark sound in favour of something more adventurous, densely layered or musically complex. Melbourne producer Lewis Day’s breakthrough came in 2013 with the release of Desperate Pleasures, his first – and so far only – outing on Tim Sweeney’s Beats in Space imprint.
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.
Any label that succeeds in coaxing the only original material from Dopplereffekt in six years deserves praise. To obtain a second release in as many years from Gerald Donald’s enigmatic electro project is damn impressive. Strictly speaking, Hypnagogia is not a new Dopplereffekt release per se as it features a contribution from Objekt on the flip.
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.
Lock up your virgin daughters and hide your household pets, the Pagan Sector duo is coming to steal your souls! This is a side project of one well-known European producer and a new artist whose star in the ascent. However, rather than daub themselves in woad and howl at the moon, these heathens prefer to reach altered states of consciousness by jamming on their machines until they have called up spectres of rave parties past.