A sense of fun isn’t generally the first thing a critic looks for in a new release. The worlds of techno and experimental music rarely raise a smile, barring an occasional wry smirk. Most house music that’s meant to be fun, those identikit bangers that clog up the internet, are so calculated that the joy is sapped out from the moment the needle hits the wax. But with the music of Rohan Bell-Towers, you can’t avoid the fun-factor. It just about smacks you in the face the moment you start listening to his music.
This is a wonderful record and it is hard to believe that it was produced 35 years ago. To put that into perspective, the music on this three-track EP predates techno, house and most electro and yet it still sounds fresh, alive and vital. Seffcheque comes from Austria and according to Kess Kill, Rivet’s label, he went on to enjoy widespread acclaim as a screen writer and movie director, including a stint as a writer on the hugely popular German crime series, Tatort.
At this point, it goes without saying that the Born Free crew are going to surprise you with whatever they do. Since 2011, Sling & Samo have done a marvelous job of weirding out the competition with a salvo of unfamiliar names burrowing in the nooks and crannies between house music conventions. Just recently we delighted at the wonders contained within that excellent Powder 12”, while Special Occasion provided a curious diversion into synth pop and hand played hardware abstractions. If there’s one thing that seems to unite the label, it’s an instinct for freakiness, even in its more pleasant and docile output.
2016 will go down as a year of great activity for Gerard Hanson. The low-profile Texan producer released his first E.R.P. record in three years and now comes Acido 22, the first Convextion record in almost a decade. It was this project that Hanson originally gained attention during the mid-’90s and which has yielded a remarkable series of EPs and self-titled album.
Powder: Somewhere to turn when house and techno is letting you down. With the sounds of Chicago and Detroit, to Birmingham, Bristol and Berlin so ubiquitous in inspiring producers everywhere, it’s nice to come across music that bends the musical hallmarks of those cities into something original. It’s said Powder comes from rural Japan and ESP Institute’s release of the Highly EP painted her as something of a character from a Haruki Murakami novel. The type trying to escape the nine-till-five life of cubic Tokyo by making supernatural music late at night. A previous turn on Born Free also felt as neon-lit as Tokyo’s world famous Shibuya district while in other sections it’s as serene her assumed pastoral homeland, but the genius of it all is this music comes from somewhere off the map.
Apron Records has continually produced a wide range of house and techno since 2011, from the stripped-down electro of Greg Beato to the bumping house sound of Shanti Celeste. The latest release features new production pairing L.M.Y.E with their self-titled debut, Lend Me Your Ears. Having apparently met at Bristol record shop Idle Hands, the two friends combined their passion for music and began producing together. The release brings to the fore another contender in Bristol’s ever-growing house scene with a number of natives making their mark on the U.K over the past few years. From the above-mentioned Shanti Celeste to new labels like Happy Skull, Lend Me Your Ears cements L.M.Y.E amongst the city’s established house fraternity.
There are those artists whose fearlessness positively radiates out of their music. It’s especially apparent when dealing in techno, where there are so many established structures and formulas one can hold onto for safety, and yet where one of the fundamental principles of the genre is to break new ground and keep pushing the technology into new realms. Terrence Dixon is a prime example with the uncompromising energy that spills out of his music. Jamal Moss too demonstrates just what can be wrangled out of drum machines and synthesisers decades after they first went into circulation, and in these backwards-looking times anyone with a sense of adventure is sure to stand out.
Earlier this year London-based all-female DJ collective Siren unveiled a poster that bluntly addressed the facile suggestion from club promoters, “there just aren’t enough women DJs.” Starting with Resom and ending on Nightwave, the poster lists out a whole host of talented female selectors using a variety of fonts to deliver a simple yet powerful slap to the chops for the laziest of excuses to cover up the lack of gender diversity in club line-ups. This is as good an example you need of the rise in discussion and action aimed at making clubbing – and electronic music in general – more inclusive.
Taylor Burch and Joe Cocherell’s association with Downwards goes back to 2010, when Regis’ label was undergoing a period of transition. At that time, it was issuing retrospectives of its owner’s work while simultaneously embracing the emerging post-punk/ industrial strain of underground electronic music, typified by Tropic of Cancer, Six Six Seconds, The KVB and DVA Damas themselves.
As the final edition of Croatia’s Garden Festival sped to towards its conclusion last summer, [Emotional] Especial boss Stuart “Chuggy” Leath and Phillip Lauer found themselves getting acquainted over a beer or two. Several chilled cans and much mutual ego-stroking later, they began to hatch a plan to bring Hotel Lauer – the Frankfurt man’s occasional collaboration with brother Jacob – to the label. Leath was clear about what he wanted: typically loved-up Lauer music that included some of the new wave, proto-house and psychedelic influences he’d been exploring since the label’s launch back in 2013.
In an interview with FACT last year, Lee Gamble explained the name of his new label UIQ as representing an unearthly germ, relating to the hypothetical idea of panspermia (life on earth originating from an extraterrestrial source). Potential interaction with alien life is attached to a friend or foe anxiety, and with this in mind, Gamble noted he would “have to shut [UIQ] down if it’s terrible, or let it go if it’s OK.” Praise was heaped upon the first two outings on the label from N1L and ZULI that sounded fittingly otherworldly with their abstract productions landing somewhere in the black hole of genre indeterminism. Now it appears the response to each record has given Gamble confidence in the merit of his undertaking, or the OK-ness of it at least, as the once single-celled UIQ has been allowed to divide and grow with the emergence of the UIQ Inversions series dedicated solely to Lee Gamble productions.
It’s been a few years since electro/techno producer Gerard Hanson last surfaced, but Ancient Light makes it clear that despite the passage of time, nothing has changed in his world. Irrespective of trends or hype, the Dallas producer just keeps doing his thing regardless, and Ancient Light is the latest articulation of his position. The release is part of Solar One’s Hubble Telescope Series, kick started by Luxus Varta and which will also feature Gerald Donald.
With their previous releases, Marionette have established themselves as a label concerned with rhythmic excursions that fall outside of the homogenised 4/4 tradition. That’s not to say that, for example, the second release from Laurine Frost didn’t have techno qualities, and indeed from a strictly theory based standpoint some of the music does still fall within the four beats, four bars mantra, but there are other forces at work in the label’s favoured style that place this music in a more interesting realm. With Deer and Maxim Wolzyn rounding out the roster to date, it’s safe to say that this new outfit is reaching to less familiar talents and they seem to have an impeccable ear for doing so.
You can file this delightful little curio from Locks & DDM alongside the Transformation 12” from a few years ago under ‘L.I.E.S. releases with somewhat fanciful backstories that are hard to believe.’ Whereas that one-sided Transformation 12”, Sketch 1, apparently originated in late-‘90s Oldenburg, Germany, but was more likely the work of Nation boss Traxx and associates, the information offered on Locks & DDM is even more vague.
Varied as his musical path is, there is a certain consistent thread that runs through all of Wata Igarashi’s projects. Whether it is punk bands he formed in Madrid when he was a teenager, an improvisational jazz group where he soaked up music theory or solo productions that have made his name, the Japanese producer has always sought out trippier elements of music. The last few years have seen him refine his deeply hallucinatory style to make for a lean yet effective sound through a handful of masterfully crafted techno cuts for labels such as Midgar in Berlin and Time To Express by Peter Van Hoesen, who’s given Igarashi’s skill set the seal of approval.
For an act that took four years to follow up its debut, the past few months have represented a veritable purple patch of creativity for Lost Trax. The collective, who want to remain in the shadows and let their music talking – unlike those who wear masks, hand stamp their records and make a media-friendly nod towards being anonymous – have just issued their second record in six months. Flatliner arrives on Shipwrec, a Dutch label that has done more than most to further underground electro, but which also provides a platform for left of centre techno from artists like Drvg Cvltvre.
Russian-born, Berlin-located Anastasia Vtorova has been publicly sharing music with us for three years now, uploading experimentations to her SoundCloud page in between releases for labels like Tesla Tapes and Peder Mannerfelt Produktion. Her music as Machine Woman so far has been perfect for people who want to take the dancefloor into a weirder, deeper headspace while still pumping out sub-bass powerful enough to make your stomach lurch.
Verona imprint Le Disque, named after the local record store of the same name, only has a modest output on its main label. It has recently launched new sub label Ambiwa, whose mission statement simply declares that it is into ‘abstract house music’. They’ve previously presented us works recently by Downbeat Records mainman Jose Rico as well as a collaboration by MCDOO and Sirius Type aka Deepblak main man Eric Porter. For their third edition they’ve handed the reins to Antonio Marini aka Healing Force Project whose impressive and defiantly original music of late see him as the perfect candidate to cater to this fledgling label’s MO.
On his Facebook page, Umwelt describes the music he makes as ‘Ravelectrodarkacidrave’. It’s not a bad description. Since the late ‘90s, the French producer has been putting out uncompromising, 303-laced electro tracks that are best heard on a big rig in the open air. (Previously, he had posted a video on Facebook, now removed, of an outdoor rave he played at during the ‘90s which perfectly captures this aesthetic).
It’s a surprise that L/F/D/M is releasing on Ecstatic, a label with links to Kompakt through founders and former Walls duo Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia. Indeed it would be hard to think of an aesthetic that is more at odds with the Cologne-based operation than that which L/F/D/M aka Richard Smith propagates. The London-based producer released an album last year on the label and now he’s back with arguably his best release to date.