If there’s one thing that comes through about Mr Beatnick’s productions, it’s the sheer musicality of it. It’s been a slow and steady ride getting to know the artist, not least on this most recent trio of Synthetes releases for Don’t Be Afraid which have crawled out one a year and culminate in this latest EP. With very little else to listen to in between times, it actually makes for a nice change being able to sit back and reflect on the select tracks that have made it out into the public consciousness, compared to the whirlwind release schedule many labels and artists seem to embrace.
The notion that labels no longer act as filters doesn’t hold sway when one considers the M>O>S operation. Set up by Aroy Dee in 2003, its original purpose was to release music by the Dutch producer himself as well as close associates like Delsin boss Marsel (as Peel Seamus) and Jochem ‘Newworldaqurium’ Peteri under his Ross 154 guise. While fads and fashions have come and go during the intervening decade, M>O>S is inadvertently positioned as one of the most relevant labels of the moment.
One of the biggest surprises of the recent L.I.E.S. showcase in London was Jason Letkiewicz’s live hardware performance under his Steve Summers alias; while his music has always been characterised by the kind of rawness only analogue hardware can provide, there was something especially bleak about it. Steering away from the classic Chicago house inspiration he’s been mining over several releases for Jack For Daze, Construction Paper and L.I.E.S, and devoid of the even sweeter melodies of his recent collaborations with Bookworms, his set had more in common with the recent crop of hardware techno coming in from the noise scene – albeit a little less severe.
When Gene Wilder accepted the role of Willy Wonka in the disturbingly psychedelic 1971 movie Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, he did so under a very important stipulation, contending: “When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp… As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself…I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.” When probed about why this request (a scene which never took place in the book) was important, Wilder replied: “because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
James Connolly has always been one of the trickier members of the Night Slugs family to get a handle on; his discography as L-Vis 1990 over the past four years has seen him deliver translucent UK funky, an album of full on pop for Island, and raw, tracky, Dance Mania-inspired club music. It was this last category that Connolly seemed to feel most at home with, and when he followed up that first record of Club Constructions on Night Slugs with a similarly rubbery house record on Clone’s Jack For Daze it felt as if he’d finally settled down into a groove.
Has it really been seven years since the last 3 Chairs release? Bar the compilation Spectrum that landed in 2009, the intermittent supergroup of Detroit titans that is Kenny Dixon Jr., Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite and Theo Parrish has been absent from the airwaves for some time. Considering there have been just four singles and one album from the collective since they first hooked up in 1997, it’s understandable if there’s something of a clamour around a new single from four producers who tend to create feverish responses individually, let alone as a combined unit.
If ever you were to enter into a listening experience with a sense of uncertainty, it could very easily be with this record. Acid Test, a sublabel of L.A collective Absurd, has in just a small cluster of releases established itself as a reliable bastion for futuristic considerations of 303-driven dance music. There’s no escaping the omnipresent acid machine, still as fetishised and relied upon for rave nastiness as when Phuture paved the way back in ’87. Where scores of producers still see an acid track as a simple combination of drum machine beats and the aforementioned 303, the team behind Acid Test are more concerned with deepening the creative possibilities that the tried and tested sound can be contorted to.
Versatility has always been a look that’s suited Rory Phillips. His extensive remix productions may have been singlehandedly responsible for making late 2000-era British electronic pop music palpable – breathing new life into everyone from The Gossip and Crystal Castles to the Scissor Sisters – and Phillips brought that same eclecticism to now-legendary club nights Trash and Durrr.
Packaged within in a highly convincing replica of a real test pressing, the presentation of Demdike Stare’s Testpressing #001 seems an intentional attempt at humorous misdirection; there’s something undeniably ironic about a record cover asking you to check for distortions in the audio when the musical content of the record is so utterly bathed in savage grit. Supposedly the first of a new series of single releases via Modern Love allowing Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty to indulge their “untamed” side, Testpressing #001 is easily the most bracing thing they’ve done as a duo; quite frankly “untamed” doesn’t even begin to cover these tracks – “unhinged” would probably be closer to the mark.
One half of Lakker flies solo with devastating results. When he’s not dropping techno for Blueprint, Killekill and Stroboscopic Artefacts with Dara Smith as Lakker, Ian McDonnell works alone under the name EOMAC.
Providing the flagship release on Anthony Naples’ sparkling new Proibito label is Royal Crown of Sweden, a pseudonym of Kansas dance music archaeologist Huerco S which looks towards dancefloor functionality without totally leaving behind his raw rubbed experimentalism. Fresh off a North American tour with Naples, Huerco’s production style seems informed and invigorated by the club; each track on the R.E.G.A.L.I.E.R EP is laced with a distinctively floor friendly sound. Speaking with us back in January, Huerco conceded that his aliases “generally serve a very functional purpose… sometimes I just want to make a techno track, no bullshit, just something for the dancers.”
Anthony Naples comes across as so self-effacing and modest that you wonder whether he’s extremely humble, or perhaps a little embarrassed of his own productions at times. Promotional text for the recent Moscato EP shows how hesitant he is to put himself on a platform, with Naples minimally stating in a press release that the ”A-side is some warpy house thing…” and that he was ” too faded to EQ it properly”. It’s the textual equivalent of a casual shrug. Though this might reflect Naples’ low-key approach to publicity, it also portrays the openness he approaches projects with: doing what feels natural seems to be an integral part of his music making, avoiding trying to please others, bucking expectations through not setting any.
After a debut appearance on the intermittent BRSTL imprint, anonymous producer Rhythmic Theory makes good their allegiance to Bristol on Idle Hands, one of the city’s most noted outposts. Both that BRSTL drop and a subsequent stealthy 12” for an eponymous label have established that Rhythmic Theory is an artist keen to forge their own distinctive approach to deep, undulating techno rather than playing catch up with other more established presences in the West Country.
Munich label Prologue veers once again into a conceptual direction with Tiamat; like last year’s Voices From The Lake album, this six-tracker from Cassegrain aka Alex Tsiridis and Hüseyin Evirgren takes techno music as a starting point but then dives into more experimental sounds and textures. Given that the duo claims that the work is inspired by Babylonian mythology, is this the latest, compelling development for conceptual electronic music or techno music’s equivalent of Genesis wearing lawnmowers on their heads?
Peverelist has always had a duality in his productions, tending towards either dark, spacious propulsive bass rhythms, or crazed dervish like tracks whose sharp, rave-inspired tones have more in common with the deranged electro of MMM than any of his West Country peers. However, like his Livity Sound associates Kowton and Asusu, his most recent output has tended more towards the raw, crunchy, monochromatic end of the spectrum which seems to have become the Livity Sound imprint’s calling card – even when jumping ship recently with Kowton to Hessle Audio for “Raw Code”.
Many new labels fall victim to brute predictability with their release schedule, fearful to step out of the irritatingly rigid proximity of just one or maybe two substrates of dance music. The charmingly unpredictable and eccentric output of Antinote Records has ensured the Paris based label founded little more than a year ago by Quentin ‘Zaltan’ Vandewalle and Gwenael Jamois has never looked vulnerable to such pitfalls as these.
The most striking characteristic about Downwards output over the last twenty years of transmissions is its reluctance to wither and dissolve into a nostalgic trophy of the ever-romanticised ’90s golden days. Instead of solely opting for a continuous drool of reissues and represses, Karl O’Connor’s imprint, or rather, ‘institution’ as it is now resembling, is still vividly pursuing that unfathomable dream for the most sporadic and decadent interferences attainable through sound.
This writer is unsure if the Avian label is attempting to introduce concepts into their releases with this pair of The Cold Light 12”s from co founder Shifted. The fact all four tracks are named after the title and are subtitled “Sektor” in alphabetical order would hint at some conceptual continuity.
Texture counts for a lot these days in house and techno. It seems ever more difficult for credible, original tropes to be found within simple elements of drums, bass and leads, and certainly the analogue revival lends itself to swathes of abstract noise. It’s hard to argue with the character that a track is given when a snarling wraith of a sound contorts itself across the duration.
Marquis Hawkes wishes anonymity wasn’t a big deal. Equally shunning the ideas of “DJ as recognizable public figure” and “clichéd disguise wearer who is possibly Tiësto’s raw house side project”, Hawkes’ intention for remaining out of the public eye is simply to focus on the music, even though he admits the sentiment sounds a bit clichéd.