Swedish producer Rivet follows a long line of anonymous producers into the contemporary techno arena, but as his second record for the the Skudge Presents label shows, there’s a lot more going on underneath the (now discarded) mask than faceless linear tracks. The Rivet material that has most in common with Driftwood is his reshape of Tyler Friedman’s “A Night in the Woods” on Kontra Musik last year. In that instance, he turned the original track into a seemingly never-ending stream of consciousness expression, adding, subtracting and re-introducing a myriad of musical elements, some easy to identify others murkier and less pronounced.
As a duo making improvised “one-take” techno jams on a variety of analogue hardware, Australian act Gardland fit one of 2013’s key narratives perhaps a little too snugly; given the prevalence of this kind of material of late, it’s little wonder the words “raw analogue techno jams” have started to fatigue fans and journalists alike. Of course it’s not a given that this kind of music should be inherently unimaginative, just that it lends itself to being thrown together in a haphazard manner. The origins of the Gardland project, supposedly borne out of a ten day drug-fuelled psychedelic bender in the Australian outback, is not exactly the kind of story that inspires much confidence in the quality of their sound.
It’s fair to say that Pépé Bradock’s Imbroglios series has received a mixed reaction from critics. Ever since the first 12” dropped last year, reviewers have been at loggerheads over the series’ quality; some believe it is amongst his best work (no mean feat, given his track record of consistently producing tracks that mangle house music, and electronic music generally, into warped new forms), while others have criticized it for being puzzling, maudlin and just plain duff. It’s true that the various tracks on the first three Imbroglios releases have been challenging, unsettling and, at times, just plain odd. But then this is Bradock we’re talking about, a producer who once created an entire house track out of the sounds of people being tortured (“Rhapsody in Pain”); you should expect this kind of dark, blood red horror-tronica. This is what he does; he would no doubt be more commercially successful if he knocked out tracks as sensual and beautiful as “Deep Burnt” once or twice a year, but that’s not what he inspires him. Criticizing him for making challenging records is way off the mark.
Backstories don’t get much better than Saâda Bonaire’s. The band was founded in Bremen in 1982, the brainchild of DJ Ralf Behrendt. The outfit orbited around two vocalists, Stefanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld, but the pair was augmented by a group of attendees at the immigration centre at which Behrendt worked. The band signed to EMI shortly after their inception, and quickly cut “You Could Be More As You Are” with Dennis Bovell. The track was intended to be their breakthrough hit. Two years later, with the release of the single impending, Saâda Bonaire’s A&R was ignominiously sacked. The track was released quietly, and the band was dropped shortly thereafter.
It’s easy to underestimate just how much Tadd Mullinix has put out over the years, both as hip hop tinged beatsmith Dabrye and as James T. Cotton. The latter has consistently smashed the possibilities of acid wide open, yielding sometimes challenging, sometimes hooky, but always vital 12”s and LPs. Spectral Sound (and its parent label Ghostly International) was the starting point for this tirade against clean production and tidy arrangements, long before the gritty analogue approach was so en vogue. After some time away producing for a whole range of different labels, JTC is bringing it back home with another slice of utterly unquestionable dancefloor dynamite.
Ron Morelli is known as the driving force behind the ultra-prolific but always engaging L.I.E.S label. The challenge now facing the straight talking DJ and occasional producer is to step from behind the shadows of the behemoth he has created and to carve out his own identity. Surfacing on Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions label, Spit is Morelli’s own statement, but it is one that remains inextricably linked to the aesthetic that underpins L.I.E.S.
Ruf Dug is very much a producer on the rise. Like a fine wine, the eccentric Mancunian DJ/producer seems to be getting better with age. He’s hardly a newcomer, having dropped his first 12” on Popular People’s Front back in 2009, a delightfully fuzzy and off-kilter chunk of warm analogue house that defied easy categorization. Yet it’s taken him some four years, and a stop-start schedule of in-demand edits and oddities (the excellent Ruf Kutz series), bizarre mixtapes based on charity shop finds, and amusing social media rants, to really fulfill his potential.
With a single-minded approach that has won him a wealth of admiration amongst lovers of ethereal electronic music, anonymous producer A Sagittariun has carved a distinct niche for himself. Releasing solely on his own Elastic Dreams imprint and reaching out to like-minded remixers such as October, Marco Bernardi and Mike Dehnert in his MD2 guise, A Sagittariun’s remit lies somewhere between the heyday of early 90s electronic listening music and more modern house and techno concerns. As such, this long player was an inevitable point to be reached, the extended running time affording the kind of space required for a producer such as this to fully explore his own curious sound world.
Someone somewhere is having a laugh. When the first Blacknecks release appeared – on anonymous vinyl, natch – the people behind it put out the entirely fictitious story that it was the work of a former garage duo from the 90s. Nothing could be further from the truth, but what still holds true is the fact that the Blacknecks project has become a platform for making and releasing music that under normal circumstances would be wrong on all kinds of aesthetic and creative levels.
As a self-released cassette and digital offering, Ralph Cumbers latest outpouring of machine love under his Bass Clef title might run the risk of getting overlooked, which would be a great shame for some of the most vital music he has yielded in his recent spell of analogue concerns. Alongside a release under his more abstract Some Truths alias, Cumbers’ Magic + Dreams label is the engine behind this latest set of reel-bound jams, which of course lends the man complete artistic freedom to indulge his muse. At this point in time his muse appears to be modular synthesis and the potential within the myriad of boxes and wires that make up the equipment, as was evident on the Reeling & Skullways LP that neatly predates this particular release. That album surfaced on Punch Drunk and so it’s hard to imagine there were too many creative constraints to interfere with the process, but still the appeal of limited releases such as this is that the pressure of expectation and scrutiny is lifted, atleast to some extent.
Who is Alan Backdrop? At the start of this year the young Italian otherwise known as Alessio Meneghell was just another name making his debut into the ether that is electronic music. Meneghell did so through Swiss imprint Motoguzzi, providing the two Excursion EPs which to date have been the label’s only releases this year. And impressive releases they were. It was a sign of things to come, and to the greater techno community, Alan Backdrop’s debut proper came through prominent deep techno label Prologue.
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Mumdance’s Twists And Turns mixtape, released in June through his sometime label Mad Decent, was particularly aptly titled. Setting out in hazy, synth-pop territory, the all-originals mix soon took in a combination of the nebulous and the muscular, pitching glassy synth peals against irate kicks that appeared to thrust pneumatically from the darkness. The Genesis EP draws on some of the material from that mixtape and there’s also a sample from Logos’ exceptional forthcoming album in the shape of “Wut It Do”. If Twists And Turns was no-holds-barred constant propulsion, the EP format gives Mumdance and his collaborators time to explore the intricacies of their dismembered grime-not-grime tracks.
If there was a “Great Chain of Being” for UK bass producers, Pearson Sound would likely be resting his feet on a cloud near the top. Over the last half decade, his productions have set a snarling standard for the tough-to-pin-down genre Hessle Audio excels in: writhing emaciated frameworks held together by violent claps and gut puncturing sub-bass. It’s a style many have attempted to copy (with limited success), and part of what distinguishes David Kennedy from the legions of other unsmiling British boys with mussed hair is his expertise at honing on various genres, extracting a tiny piece of what he wants, and surgically infusing it into his sound.
Since her emergence in 2010, Laurel Halo’s music seems to have been torn between two modes. Her first EP, King Felix, explored a kind of vocal pop music with an accompanying electronic backdrop that saw her voice set among soaring electronic vistas that owed much to half-remembered ‘80s musical culture. Its follow up, Hour Logic, was something of an about turn, largely ditching the vocals for a collection of tracks that seemed like more of an attempt to engage with the dancefloor. The not entirely successful nature of these two experiments was somewhat resolved with the earnest vocal delivery and neon-spattered dub of her debut LP, Quarantine, but the EPs that bookended it have been resolutely club-focused. This push and pull has made it difficult to get a handle on what Halo’s grand plan is. Is she a pop artist trying to make club music, or is she even interested in the club at all?
Who wants their music to be easily signposted all the time? As Aybee’s Deepblak label gets ever bolder in exploring paths less trodden in rhythmic electronic music, so Afrikan Sciences returns to deliver an inimitable concoction of spanners in the works, conjuring up a wonderfully disorientating sonic experience in the process. His previous long player set the tone for abstraction hovering on the fringes of house and techno, shot through with the kind of ethnically rooted beat instinct you might find in Brainfeeder’s Ras G. While there are plenty of producers that can work with polyrhythms and syncopation in their methodical arrangements, it’s a different beast to authentically channeling the lilt and roll of hand-drummed, multi-limbed percussion.
There’s that scene in The Hunt For The Red October where the camera zooms in toward the Russian speaking mouth of Ivan Putin, an ill fated political officer on a rogue submarine captained by Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius. Putin speaks in his native tongue until reaching the word ‘Armageddon’, pronounced the same in English as in Russian, and this signals the chance for director John McTiernan to pull off one of the most memorable moves in ‘90s Hollywood cinema. From here on all Soviet dialogue is in English (only towards the end of the film once Russian and American submariners meet are subtitles used again) and Sean Connery’s velvet drawl is not only forgiven, it’s forgotten.
Originating from a live performance by Peter Van Hoesen at a Time 2 Express label night at Tresor in July this year, Life Performance captures the energy that often evades techno artists when they sit down to record a studio album. Attribute it to the fact that Van Hoesen was toying with a new live set-up on the night or put it down to the Belgian producer’s general ability to push the techno envelope, but whatever the explanation, Life Performance teems with fresh ideas and glistening, futuristic rhythms, all segued on the fly and in direct response to his audience’s needs.
It seems somewhat fitting that Jaime Fennelly created much of his work as Mind Over Mirrors on a remote Washington island in the Salish Sea. When The Rest Are Up At Four is the fourth Mind Over Mirrors album in three years from Fennelly, his first for the Chicago label Immune, and feels strangely distant, while also rooted in the organic sounds of surrounding nature. As a founding member of Peeesseye, which formed in 2002, Fennelly lived in Bushwick, New York until he decided to relocate to island life in 2007. The move was a shift that coincided with his development as a solo artist, work that was created under more isolated conditions.
New York is currently in the process of attempting to wrench the reputation of “formidable techno epicentre of the world” out of the hands of a number of European contenders. That sounds dramatic, but the explosive proliferation of labels calling NY home suggest not only that it’s still the gritty epicentre of American experimentalism, but that we’re in wildfire mode now: It’s hard to stop the growth. Even with writers like Scott Wilson profiling the city extensively in his Scratching The Surface column earlier this year, there’s still a plethora of under-the-radar labels breathing life into Brooklyn.