When it comes to no-nonsense, heads-down techno, few labels can match Bek Audio. While it has released material by Chicago legends DJ Rush and Lester Fitzpatrick, as well as Mark Broom and Slam, for its 30th release its owner, Gary Beck is back in the saddle. The title track is an unstoppable juggernaut that comprises a driving funk-bass, disco loops and sassy vocal samples. "Shadow Bounce" is more typical Beck, with a hammering central rhythm undercutting a noisy riff and a choppy vocal stab. "Bicycle Wheel" sees the Scottish producer deliver a lighter, party techno looper, while expect the catchy vocals and loopy funk of "Fantasy Stomp" to compete with "Famoo Funk" for attention.
On the back of Kompakt's expansive retrospective of his work under the Gas alias, the essential Box, Wolfgang Voigt has decided to deliver a new album - his first for 17 years. Predictably, Narkopop is as cinematic, widescreen and densely layered as anything the German ambient producer has done to date. Over 11 spellbinding tracks, Voigt blends field recordings and droning electronics with sweeping, almost orchestral movements, swirling melodic cycles, and occasional forays into rhythmic hypnotism. The result is a collection of "wall of sound" ambient compositions that does a terrific job tiptoeing the fine lines between both grandiosity and intimacy, and joy and pain. In a word: essential.
Spanish producer Valentin Corujo knows how to get a groove on. On his latest release as Kessell - this time on Developer's label - he drops five killer dance floor tracks, each one as functional as the next. The first "Ecliptica" revolves around the kind of nocturnal bass that sounds inspired by Suburban Knight, while the second one is metallic and stripped back, but undercut with an acidic flavour. Number three is tough and pushing towards the edge of distortion thanks to its grainy kicks and noisy filters, while on the fourth version is slightly more reserved and sees Corujo draw on the spacey end of Sandwell District for inspiration. Closing the release is the fifth instalment, a rolling, hypnotic track that draws on loop techno's legacy but deploys these sensibilities in a visceral setting.
Tiga teams up with Matthew Dear's Audion project for a third release. Supposedly inspired by life in 'rough times', this EP is a no-nonsense, gritty affair. "Stabbed in the Back" resounds to rough kicks, brittle percussion and the kind of nightmarish stabs that were common during hardcore's heyday. "Pink Bells" is not as visceral, but it resounds to a rolling, filtered groove, hypnotic, chiming bells that weave in and out of the arrangement and an occasional shrieking siren. "Non Stop" sees the pair drop the tempo (and intensity levels) to deliver a shaky, minimal house track, but even here their bleak vision of the world is audible in the detuned synth riff that echoes across its rickety drums.
DJ duo Audiojack return to their Gruuv label with a killer house release. The title track is a classic deep affair; based on a wiry but driving rhythm and rasping percussion, it features sensuous melodies and a ponderous, seductive female vocal. "On The Road" is closer in sound to classic 20/20 Vision, with the pair deploying a detuned riff and an organ sequence over a tough, driving rhythm. Reset Robot turns "Senses" into a deep techno track, with chiming chords and a linear groove underpinning the original version's vocal sample, while on the Dubspeeka version of the same track, a more understated, stripped back approach prevails.
The legendary Spaniard Juan Rico (Reeko) aka Architectural on Maceo Plex's Ellum Audio? We're just as perplexed (no pun intended) as you are! But if this is welcoming a sudden change of direction for the label, then we're all for it. Expanding on previous efforts, Rico further explores the dubbier shades of hypnotic techno once again for the Heaven Can Wait EP. "Dream Driver" opening proceedings in a droney and trance inducing fashion, with main room/pre-peak time adrenaline in mind. It's a more subdued, deeper and minimal affair on the rather lush atmospherics of "Hidden" while on the flip we've got "Surreal Restaurant"; which is most likely inspired by grabbing a doner kebap after a long hight of clubbing in the German capital and musically it's fully of icy, cavernous delay drenched aesthetics drifting off into nice trails of reverb.
This EP marks the Klakson label debut of Privacy, a Berlin-based machine freak who has previously impressed via releases on Lobster Theremin, Klasse Wrecks and Valcrond Video. Across the course of four fine tracks, the producer explores the world of electro, doffing a cap to a number of sub-genres along the way. So, while the skittish and excitable "Four Lo" sounds like a "braindance" era Rephlex throw-down, the slower, dirtier and spookier "U Can Tell" sails closer to dark electro territory. Then "NCSC" combines punchy electro drums with the trademark arpeggio bass and spacey synthesizer melodies of Italo-disco, while the fast-paced "Shove" sounds like a long lost Dexter classic.
Since debuting on Token five years ago, CTRLS has established himself as a distinctive voice in techno. Formerly a drum'n'bass artist, his ninth release for Kr!z' label refines the complex, rhythmic techno sound he has made his own. "The Shortest Path" kick starts the EP with a clanging, metallic groove, populated by shards of spiky percussion and set at a furious pace. "Rush Hour" is in a similar vein, but its beats are harder and grittier. As the release progresses, the Danish producer reveals a different side; "Crash" has an eerie, mysterious edge but is based on panel beating kicks, while "Highway" sees him explore a more conventional minimal sound. Add in two locked grooves and you've got another high-impact, CTRLS release.
This release is the second in a series of ten records that Dutch label and festival promoters extraordinaire Dekmantel has planned for 2017 to celebrate its first decade in business. Call Super's "Fluenka Spoke" is an understated affair; over a stripped back, clicky groove, the UK producer adds in whirrs and ticks, birdsong and tropical effects. It makes for a heady affair. On the flipside, Dekmantel have tapped Shanti Celeste and her contribution, "Hinoki", doesn't disappoint. Over a rolling, rickety rhythm, she adds in beautiful, billowing chords and breathy vocal samples - an intoxicating vision of Detroit techno, routed through Bristol and interpreted in great style.
Culled from Monkeytown's second album, Othona, as well as the preceding single, "The Walker" and "Kilter" get reshaped by two of electronic music's most respected emerging artists. First up is Miami's Danny Daze; his take on "The Walker" starts inauspiciously with ghostly electronic chants, but they are soon joined by a pulsing, acid-soaked bass that pushes the original track into a tripped out disco finale. Meanwhile, the German techno duo the Zenker Brothers get to rework "Killer". Grainy percussion drizzles over a steppy rhythm and billowing chords, while metallic drums knock out the clanging beat. With the addition of grandiose woodwind, it makes for an epic treatment
After making occasional appearances on compilation style EPs, deep house artist Demuja - AKA Salzburg-based producer Bernhard Weiss - finally made his solo vinyl debut last month. Here he delivers a speedy follow-up on Austrian imprint RTCT. There's naturally much to admire throughout, from the drowsy chords, classic vocal samples and punchy drum machine hits of "Feel Like Me", to the driving, Detroit techno influenced, acid-laden stomp of "16 Volt". Urulu is on hand to provide a tasty remix of the latter track, toning down the techno influences in favour of a locked-in deep house groove, darting synth stabs and sparkling electronics.
Here's something to moisten the palette of all those who enjoy atmospheric techno: a collaborative EP from Spanish stalwart Sverca and Italian ambient techno duo Voices From The Lake. Naturally, it's a hazy and mind-altering affair, with the trio first burying bustling, surprisingly intense drum beats beneath sprawling, sound design style textures on "Circa". The paranoid creepiness continues on the bolder "Isolation", where an almost constant synth loop rides a matter-or-fact techno kick-drum pattern. There's a noticeably dystopian feel about the buzzing riffs and foreboding electronics of "Beneath The Lines", while closer "Shado" sounds like a moody techno take on early British bleep, crossed with drone style soundscapes.
The consistently brilliant DJ Hell taps some top-class remixers to re-interpret "I Want U". First up is Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann, who adds some steely force to the original. Toughening up the kicks, laying down a linear rhythm and making the bass sound foreboding, he gives the original version a bleakly futuristic feel. Terrence Fixmer, a long-standing Hell ally, turns the track into a nihilistic ebm stomper, with a grainy bass and a dark, pulsing groove underpinning breathy samples. The last version comes from Romina Cohan. The Argentinean artist has also been a long-time Hell affiliate and like Fixmer, offers up a brutal vision, dictated by a bass so corrosive that only the accompanying tingling percussion can offset its ferocity.
Of Norway have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Conaisseur and Loneliest Man is the pair's third album for the label. As usual, it combines the Norwegian pair's quirky humour with their wide ranging sound palette. Gentle ambient sound tracks like "The Soothing" and "Don't Break The Silence" sit next to the tight electro of "Separation Failure" and the acid-soaked disco of "Bootes Void". On the chilling synths of the John Carpenter meets Goblin "The Life & Death Of Italian Mantrance", Of Norway's ability to replicate distinct styles as well as their wry humour is most obvious, while the dreamy house of "Favourite Mistake", which features Linnea Dale on vocals, shows that they are not afraid of mainstream sounds. It's an accomplished, assured release.
Over the past few years, Shlomi Aber has successfully integrated dub techno influences with tougher dance floor rhythms - and this approach reaches its creative apex on Panix. The title track is a hypnotic, linear groove that resounds to hissing percussion, thunder-claps and foreboding chord stabs (that are somewhat reminiscent of Dave Clarke's Red series). On "Camouflage", the Israeli producer pushes a similar approach; again the groove is throbbing and percussion hisses furiously, but doesn't reach the same intensity levels. Aber has drafted in Skudge to provide the remixes - their first take on "Panix" sees the Swedish pair focus on a ponderous vocal and eerie synth builds over steely hi-hats, while the second take sees them descend into a full-on, acid-soaked banger.
Supposedly, the Swedish word for porch is 'altan', and the gathering referred to in the title is about a private gathering at label owner Ulf Eriksson's home to celebrate Kontra's ten years in business. Frak then decided to name their latest release on Kontra after said soiree. It starts with the low-slung electro of "Greater" - a mood later replicated on the sleazy "Humalog" - before moving into the rougher acid house of "De Klos". By the time the veteran trio reach "Reynerdes" and the gritty lo-fi pulses of "Arcade 1673", they have entered full on fuzzy analogue techno mode. As birthday party soundtracks go, it takes some beating.
The vibe stays low down and nasty as Unknown To The Unknown sublabel House Crime rolls into its fourth release. Whoever DJ Club 1235 is, they known how to make a no-nonsense hardware house jam, and "Constant" that leads this record is just that. Straight up gnarly bleeps over a basic stomping beat - sometimes that's all that you need to make a club wrecker. "Trust" is also a particular treat with its slightly more developed lead line and urgent drums, but don't overlook the shorter interlude tracks that make this an EP with many different shades of jack to it.
After a series of split releases, Headless Horseman is the first artist to get a full EP on Tommy Four Seven's label. 47009 provides a show-case for the side project that Bill Youngman has been steadily developing over the past few years. On "Widow's Peak", a distorted hoover riff and ghostly howls unfold over a stepping rhythm and intense percussive bursts, while on "Shattered", Youngman invokes a supernatural sensibility to deliver a droning, industrial workout. "Bleeding Arrows" is slower and more tortured, with massive gut-busting subs underpinning noisy textures, while "The Day She Vanished" sees the pace revert to a limp as Youngman lays down a frazzled death march dirge.
Dutch analogue punk Vincent Koreman returns as Drvg Cvltvre for some retro devoured techno that suits Bintus' Power Vacuum just perfectly. The New York Haunted boss throws down the tough rave stomper "Bunkerpunch" on the A side which sounds like a euphoric 6AM party down at the Packard Plant Detroit circa '93. As for the second track, we have got "Air Raid" where the rave theatrics continue, complete with siren sounds, on this wonderful homage to early Underground Resistance with its hands in the air chords and intermittent breakbeat action. Reaching near anthemic moments like Koreman's 2015 killer "Crack Spirit Guide". Following up wicked releases on Poverty Is Violence, Shipwrec and Pinkman: this guy absolute kills it as always!
Webstarr first came to light back in 2014 with a deadly single on Beneath's ever-essential Mistry label, so you know that his moves in the bass music world come highly recommended. Finally coming back on the radar to kick off the De Grey label, his tough, limber productions sound stronger than ever, drawing on industrial and dub influences but framing them in a thoroughly modern context. "We Can't Have Nice Things" uses a plaintive lead that wouldn't sound out of place on a Hodge production, with roughneck drums to match, while "Warsaw" takes a swerve towards brooding techno-flavoured structures. "Exit" is arguably the strongest track here with its tightly wound, urgent rhythmic pulse sounding fit for a Livity Sound release.