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Fetnat – Swahili

Too often labels can become stagnated with the same tried and tested (albeit quality) productions from some of the scenes long-standing veterans. Berlin based label Nous take a different route; regularly providing a platform for unknown producers amidst the occasional Call Super or Karen Gwyer record. George Mavrikos spearheads Nous, and along with the collaborative effort of friends and artists he’s built a label that sets an example; dig around, talk to people and get involved in the scene in order to discover the freshest sounds. The time and dedication he commits to sourcing music is nothing short of astounding, the results of which are clear from the back catalogue of largely unknowns that make up the label.

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Benjamin Brunn – Plastic Album

With a consistent, unflashy approach to presenting his craft, it can sometimes be easy to overlook Benjamin Brunn. The Hamburg-based producer has been releasing music for the best part of 20 years, although it is primarily since his collaborative work with Move D around 2008 that he has been more publicly visible, and yet he remains something of an outsider proposition. Musically, his is an easy confection to love, dealing in well-rounded, melodically rich electronics with an understanding of groove and enough kinks in the composition to hold your attention. 2012’s A Sun Life LP on Third Ear served as a perfect distillation of these qualities, sporting as it did a warming balance of techno and house laden with plush synth lines.

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NGLY – Cities of Illusion

Argentinean producer Sidney Reilly made his debut as NGLY back in 2014 with a four-track white 12″ as part of the White Label division of Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. that contained the brilliant “Speechless Tape”. With its ponderous vocals and raw, jacking groove, it brilliantly re-configured the soulful iterations of early Chicago house. It’s no surprise that it captured the imagination of many underground DJs and resulted in NGLY’S debut becoming a much sought-after record and getting a subsequent re-edition on L.I.E.S.

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RVDS – Shadows

How many different ways can a traditional box jam set up be approached? Considering the limits of hardware production and the instantly recognisable sounds that the most popular units yield, it’s a wonder that artists continue to find ways to express themselves in a unique manner when using vintage kit. Reaching for classic sounds can be a divisive creative choice when scores of producers have already covered the same ground, but therein lies the talent of some musicians in making the familiar sound fresh and satisfying on the ears. To be fair to Rupert von der Schulenburg, he has been involved in music since the ‘80s and so any predilection towards old-skool sounds is at the very least based on years of experience rather than contrived retro-fetishism.

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The Smoke Clears – The Smoke Clears

The Smoke Clears is a project from Irish producer John Daly which debuted back in late 2013 with the album. Clear, for Seattle outpost Further Records. Better known for his house releases, this second album from Daly as The Smoke Clears sees him explore an ambient/downtempo approach that is every bit as impressive as his dancefloor material. The timing and look of the release has been perfectly planned; All City has scheduled it for mid-September, a period when the summer starts to give way to autumn. Fittingly, the cover features a brown forest set against a dusky sky.

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Spooky-J – Limbo Yam / Pfer

In modern clubs, people don’t dance when there are no drums playing. Whether it’s an ambient opener or a lengthy breakdown, as soon as the melodies take over from the beat, the crowd tends to come to a standstill. Given the importance this puts on percussion in dance music, it’s unsurprising the majority of club producers are happy to just lay down a kick drum and a few loops of snares, hi hats and shakers. If there’s a beat, people will dance.

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Alpha 606 – Afro-Cuban Electronics

Armando Martinez is one the first electronic music producers to explore overtly political themes. Until now, the form’s most memorable articulations of this topic have tended towards the abstract and have included UR’s call to the oppressed to revolt, Drexciya’s hope that the experience of their forefathers provided inspiration for change and the more general concern expressed in electro records that the machines are taking over.

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Asusu – Hallucinator/Sendak

Asusu steps up with Livity Sound’s second offering of 2016 in what has been a relatively quiet year for the label’s release schedule. Peverelist, Kowton and Asusu’s label has pumped out 18 EPs and three compilations of twisted club hybrids since its inception in 2011, spawning a new generation of producers in its wake. The arrival of Kowton’s debut album, Utility, in April ensured Livity Sound has still made a loud musical mark on the calendar, and now Asusu’s first solo outing on the label in over three years affirms its central prominence in the scene it helped incubate.

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VC-118A – Shift Register

Much has changed in the four years since Samuel van Dijk unveiled his debut album under the VC-118 alias, the Lunar Disko-released International Airlines. While Britain, in particular, basked in the feel-good glow of the London Olympics, the Dutch producer’s dark, paranoid and intoxicating blends of razor-sharp electro, pitch-black techno, dubbed-out soundscapes and ghostly IDM seemed out-of-step with the prevailing mood. Since then, the winds of change have blown through Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and van Dijk’s undeniably bittersweet music suddenly feels in step with our troubling times.

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Ossia – Control / Information / Version

When Red X dropped on Blackest Ever Black last year, it felt like a truly exciting cementing of the promise Ossia had been showing in his actions within the Bristol music scene up until that point. From his Young Echo dalliances (not least his deadpan mic ramblings during their radio shows and club nights) to his own Peng Sound! dances and on to the No Corner label and Rwd Fwd online store, expectations were always going to be high for such a figure’s debut release. Red X, in its creeping, seething malaise, was a startling debut that quite simply nailed the notion of a next step in that iffy Bristol Sound concept.

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Project STS – Hubble Telescope Series Volume III

The third and final instalment of the Hubble Telescope series features The Exaltics and Gerald Donald collaborating on music that is supposedly dedicated to the scientists working at NASA and the ESA. Whether or not the men and women of science in these respective institutions kick back to abstract electro in their spare time is questionable, but the pair nonetheless deliver a release that does at times sound like it has voyaged through the cosmos to reach its audience.

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Jeremy Hyman – Couch

Washington DC’s Future Times label cultivates a particularly distinctive style, but it’s not easy to pin that sound down. Now under the sole guidance of Andrew Field-Pickering aka Max D, the label has spent eight years exploring variations on colourful maximalism, woozy new age and the cosmic reaches of dance music, all packaged with a retro yen and an irrepressible sense of fun. As a cocktail it sounds overpowering, yet each Future Times release impresses with its execution as much as its oddball flair, ably demonstrated in outings this year from Shanti Celeste, Will DiMaggio and Frequency Based Lovers.

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Alessandro Adriani – Crow

In his role as Mannequin gatekeeper, Alessandro Adriani has put out other people’s music and in the process unearthing some fine electronic music obscurities from both the modern day and the past. However, 2016 will go down as the year that the Italian label owner turns producer, stepping out from the shadows and puts out his own material.

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John Heckle – Tributes to a Sun God

This latest release by John Heckle is dedicated to the artist who gave him his first break. The Sun God is a reference to Jamal Moss, better known as Hieroglyphic Being. It was on Moss’ Mathematics label that the first Heckle record appeared back in 2010. Six years on and the UK producer is using his latest release to recognise this fact. Less abrasive than the I.B.M. side project and more esoteric than the Hieroglyphic Being output, the Sun God is Moss’ attempt to make house music with a deep edge.

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Karen Gwyer – Prophase Metaphase Anaphase Telophase

In one of her first major interviews, with The Quietus back in 2014, Karen Gwyer talked at length about her struggle to balance a desire to make dancefloor-ready techno, and a constant desire to make her music sound “weirder”. In the article, she seemed conflicted – as if focusing on making people dance was somehow an affront to her experimentalist roots – yet balancing these two contrasting demands has become her musical trademark.

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Cristian Vogel – The Assistenz

Cristian Vogel’s contribution to electronic music is unquestionable. Along with Neil Landstrumm (Pure /Sativa) and Steve Bicknell (Lost), Vogel and his associates provided an anarchic counterpoint to the big club and festival apparatus that sought to surround techno music during the early to mid-’90s. Like the aforementioned Landstrumm, Vogel’s music was a vividly freeform amalgamation of influences.

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Chunyin – Code Switch

There’s a lot of emphasis around knowing your history and being familiar with the canon as an artist or producer. However, some of the most unique and invigorating sounds can come from people who don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge about the genre of music they make. One such producer is Chunyin. “I wouldn’t say I’m particularly well-versed in dance music,” the Sydney-based, Hong Kong-born producer admitted in an interview with Truants earlier this year. Chunyin marks a turning point in her music career – before this she was making thoughtful, colourful pop under the name Rainbow Chan.

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Snorre Magnar Solberg, Kristoffer Drevdal / DJ Fett Burger – No-No 4

Snorre Magnar Solberg is a Norwegian DJ and producer who recently contributed a podcast to the Juno Plus series and who runs the Club No-No label. His work has been previously described as ‘rainforest techno’, but if this fourth release on his imprint is to fit that description, then the trees would be shrouded in grey mist, the plants’ berries poisonous and the animals that inhabit it wary to venture out before dusk.

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Various Artists – Scandinavian Swords II

When it comes to the work of Northern Electronics and other labels and artists that orbit this particular dimension of Swedish techno, the appeal is less about a dogmatic adherence to rules than it is about a sense of place. While the label’s output can range from tough rhythmic pulses to spacious ambience, the work of Varg, Abdullah Rashim, SARS et al is consistent in its evocation of an imagined place. Much music these days seeks to draw on worldly influences to fling the listener to far-out, exotic climes, but these artists have struck upon an aesthetic that heads in the opposite direction from sun-kissed lands and finds beauty in a cold, harsh environment. Considering the name of the label and the fact the majority of artists hail from Sweden, how much of this mental imagery is supposition? A lot of it, but not without merit, as Scandinavian Swords II demonstrates.

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Obalski – Wind S

While some labels choose to look close to home for inspiration, Public Possession have always sourced material from the four corners of the globe. Even so, it’s true to say that some of the label’s most intriguing releases have come from in-house production outfit Tambien (a collaboration between Bartellow, and label founders Marvin & Valentino), and fellow Munich resident Dominik Obalski. The latter is a particularly interesting example, because he has shied away from pandering to the demands of the dancefloor. His roots are apparently in experimental music – his CV includes crafting sound instillation’s for art galleries, and composing music for art-house plays – and this could be heard in both his 2014 debut, Introducing Obalski, and last year’s follow-up, According To Obalski.

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