Working as The Exaltics, Robert Witschakowski may be just as prolific as some of his peers, but he doesn’t make the common mistake of releasing records that all sound the same. To highlight this point, the German producer’s latest release and debut for Shipwrec bears little relation to the brooding electro of his recent record for Clone West Coast Series. In fact, with the exception of some of the material that appears on Perc Trax or Power Vacuum, Twelve is unlike anything else being released at the moment. Inspired by the hard acid of Woody McBride and his Communique label and the sewer techno stomp of Bunker, Twelve is a nasty, distorted release that constantly threatens to spiral out of control.
For an artist that has been prolific since the 90s from underground experiments to chart topping festival bangers, it was remarkable how much Roman Flügel’s first album under his own name, 2011’s Fatty Folders, affirmed his reputation amongst the upper echelons of electronic auteurs. It was perhaps one of the first chances to hear the German mainstay cut free of specific conceptual motives (from the refined minimal house of Roman IV to the rabble-rousing techno of Alter Ego) and deliver an album that seemed to come from a more personal artistic mindset. There was still a strong narrative to latch on to, but the expression within the music seemed to come from a more heartfelt place.
Is it possible to truly be depressed in Los Angeles? Sure, there’s the agonizing traffic, omnipresent smog, and smoothies with baffling $14 price tags, but traditionally, it’s a city that gets portrayed as a slacker’s paradise – days spent surfing and getting stoned, nights spent hiccuping down the boulevards shaded by palm trees. This wasn’t true for Brighton-born, half Egyptian, half Scottish producer Kutmah, who had his door randomly kicked in several years ago by armed federal agents, and imprisoned him for two months on immigration-related charges.
Regardless of the claims of critics and musicians, it’s increasingly rare to find a band, producer or collective that does something unique. While plenty of artists are capable of breathing new life into ailing genres, or drawing together disparate influences to create intriguing musical fusions, very few manage to produce work that not only defies easy categorization, but also leaves you desperately searching for a coherent explanation for what you’ve just heard.
The concept of hype in electronic music seems particularly skewed right now, a burden that labels and artists have to carry that is generally generated, measured and dissected by others; be it general shifts in online editorial coverage, views on YouTube or hiked up prices on Discogs. In the case of Mood Hut, this seems especially true with claims of ‘hype’ out of sync with their low key approach; when was the last Q&A you read with Aquarian Foundation or the last monotonous list dripping with the bitter taste of content from the Hashman Deejay used as a means to promote an upcoming release?
Deborah Eisenberg’s short story Twilight of the Superheroes gives us a glimpse into the life of Passivity Man, the world’s most passive aggressive superhero. He sleeps when he’s stressed, chain-smokes constantly, and sports the dismal catch phrase “but, like, what am I supposed to do about it?” as if it means something. Eisenberg is trying to show that it’s much harder to believe in superheroes in a world riddled by inequality, terrorism, Ebola and suffering, and her writing seems like an oddly apt descriptor of Talaboman, who sounds like a cape-sporting vigilante in name only. Instead of providing humanity with something to believe in, the duo of Axel Boman and John Talabot are much more concerned with lurking in the shadows of dingy dancefloors worldwide; mixing a prickly dystopian discomfort with unexpected adrenaline-inducing moments of energy. If the duo were a superhero, it’s much more likely that they’d be some scraggly, unshaven incarnation of Doctor Strange than a do-gooder like Spiderman.
There’s something rather fitting about the concept behind this split LP from brothers-in-electronica Martin Jenkins (AKA Pye Corner Audio) and Alessio Natalizia. As the title suggests, it was inspired by the world of espionage, and more specifically the spy rings that criss-crossed the World during the Cold War era, with bed-hopping, double-crossing agents meeting at dawn to exchange information in dark alleys, non-descript cafes and hush-hush safe houses. It’s an era that has already provided ample fodder for authors and scriptwriters, so it makes sense that it would provide inspiration for a pair of producers whose instinctive takes on electronic music more often than not veer on the claustrophobic.
One of the chief joys of a TTT release is that the reputation and ‘avant’ status hovering as a marker above the label often infers that the producer involved – even highly-esteemed or established ones – will be presenting a slightly different aspect of themselves. Take Anthony Naples; often included within a set of contemporary producers marketed for their roughened and experimental edge, it wasn’t until El Portal for Will Bankhead’s label last year that the tendency first started to actually show.
If there’s one thing that London’s House of Trax parties have nailed since their inception, it’s the deceptively hard task of making a good flyer. Utilizing rough-edged aesthetics from late ’80s Brooklyn house label art and borrowing images from Robert Crumb and Keith Haring, their art thrums with a vibrant secrecy - much in the same way that finding out the local Vietnamese dance studio in your city actually doubles as an after hour club gives a certain thrill. It’s a party whose imagery is familiar enough to be recognizable, while simultaneously promising you something that you haven’t experienced before - It’s the same feeling one gets when flipping through a used crate of records to find a white label adorned only by weird marker scrawls or a fading handstamp.
Drew Lustman has always seemed like a man blessed with more musical ideas than he knows what to do with. A cursory trawl through the now sprawling FaltyDL discography seems to confirm this assumption. After starting life making skittish, off-kilter bass music informed by jungle, garage and early British rave music, Lustman settled on a style that delighted in confounding expectations. His first two albums, both released on Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu imprint, were particularly thrilling, offering vivacious, often kaleidoscopic blends of styles shot through with a rush-inducing dedication to dancefloor release.
I’ve seen Dettmann play overtime to an empty club of 15 brave Australians (including bar staff) on a cold Thursday night in Adelaide. I’ve had him outlast me at Berghain, I’ve witnessed him power through 10-straight-hours of 130BPM techno with Ben Klock, and I just saw him play back-to-back with Luke Slater at this year’s Dekmantel Festival. If there’s a DJ I can trust to helm two turntables, some CDJs and a mixer, it’s Dettmann. With the future of the mix CD uncertain, it’s nice to know there are still DJs out there with the ability to rustle up excitement around the release of one. Fabric’s storied series has become the mix CDs main faculty, and Pangaea’s complete thrust into techno music and Move D’s housier edition have kept fabric’s tin packaging in production for another successful year.
Why should electronic music producers be confined to writing solely for the dancefloor? For every dodgy techno ‘concept’ album, there have been a multitude of excellent projects – witness alternative (in form) releases from Regis, Surgeon and more recently Sigha and sometime Nine Inch Nails band member Alessandro Cortini over the past year. It’s heartening to see Ostgut Ton supporting this kind of thinking. After all the label has been one of the most prolific platforms for modern house and techno, so its willingness to give vent to abstract compositions that provided a soundtrack to a ballet last year is welcome.
“We are just images now”. Tony Williams’ recently born project Kline Coma Xero self titled debut for the wonderful Seattle-based Medical Records dispenses such pearls of postmodern thought in large quantities. On other tracks, Williams disembodiedly croons that ‘we’re all mannequins’ (“Mannequins”), that we’re in a ‘casualty ward’ (“Casualty Ward”), that he’s ‘standing in the dark looking for an answer’ (“Silent Call”), or ‘alone in the darkroom’ (“Darkroom”), and finally that there are ‘no windows’ and that hence we are told to ‘turn off the lights / turn off the TV / turn off the thinking’ (“No Windows”).
Glance at the cover of Glasgowian newcomer Inkke’s first EP on Local Action Records, and you may be struck by a bit of deja vu – after all, the image of a crumbling subway station taken over by nature moss and grass certainly owes a lot stylistically to London’s Night Slugs crew, who’ve often made the contrast between brutalist architecture and uncontrollable organic growth the focus of their aesthetic work (see the eerie trailer for L-Vis 1990′s Ballads EP featuring a city block submerged in water, or the sectioned-off wilderness of the “Melba’s Call” video).
It’s always dangerous to assess the quality of a label on the basis of a handful of releases, but so Lobster Theremin hasn’t put a foot wrong since launching last year with Palm Trax’s brilliant Equation EP. Indeed, you could say Lobster Theremin has established itself as a must-check imprint not afraid to shake things up at every opportunity. In the last 18 months, the label has various delivered murky, acid-flecked techno from Snow Bone, the hazy, sub-aquatic deepness of Steve Murphy’s largely overlooked Relax EP, humid, new age-influenced goodness via Route 8 and wonky, bass-heavy, pitched-down Detroit techno from Crisis Urbana’s Rawaat.
Beau Wanzer goes back to Traxx’s Nation imprint for his latest 10″ Power Outage. The Chicago native has stayed loyal to the Nation cause since his appearance on the 2008 Modern Electronic Element EP, gracing various follow up releases, as well as developing the Mutant Beat Dance project with Traxx. Power Outage is a release that offers the same kind of hefty analog rhythms and mechanical precision that might be expected from Wanzer, but this time with a more experimental edge than some of his (equally excellent) dance-ready cuts on L.I.E.S. and Russian Torrent Versions as well as his Streetwalker project.
In the early days of digital downloading, some net labels used to release vinyl versions of tracks that were popular online. While the same approach does not apply to Avian’s re-release of Auto Body – originally available as a limited cassette edition of 42 copies on Hospital Productions – it does nonetheless raise the question about whether increasing numbers of cassette-based releases will eventually make it onto wax.
When Italian trio One Circle first appeared on left_blank last year with Flight To Forever, it was difficult to know where to place their music. Brandishing an experimental sound somewhere between abstract dubstep and melodic Border Community-style techno, the trio’s hard-edged yet woozy sound could perhaps be best loosely described as “trance”, something that makes sense in relation to the respective solo projects of its members. Lorenzo Senni for example made an album of “deconstructed trance” for Editions Mego, Vaghe Stelle is becoming increasingly known for his lysergic high definition melodies, while soundtrack composer A:RA arguably added a touch of baroque atmosphere to their sound.
With the usual lack of fanfare that accompanies Shackleton’s missives on his own Woe To The Septic Heart! imprint, here a new series is birthed with no specific outline of theme or concept, other than the title Deliverance. Whether it conjures up some kind of spiritual salvation or an ill-fated back-country expedition is entirely in the mind of the beholder, and there’s no doubt the man at the controls would prefer to keep it that way. Instead, we’re left to draw conclusions based on nothing but the music, and as ever the musical evolution of one of dubstep’s true auteurs finds him progressing gracefully, following the thread set out by the Drawbar Organ EPs and this year’s previous Freezing Opening Thawing while avoiding the trap of repeating the same trick twice.
Void Vision appeared from the murky filigree of 2010 in which we kept getting great records from the States and wondered what on earth was happening over the Atlantic. You may even recall an article in the Guardian (!) attempting to figure out some sort of socio-cultural background to what appeared to be a New York-based revival of an extremely European death-drive. At the time Void Vision were just another duo from the Wierd scene. They released In Twenty Years on Blind Prophet – a strong, nightmarish tune – and disappeared back into the darkness they came from. After a forgettable split with Vice Device last year, it seems Void Vision – now a solo female artist, and swept up by the more muscular ways of Mannequin Records – might finally have her time.