Cleric aka Jorden Hodgetts is one of the new techno artists to emerge from the UK in recent years, and he proves his worth on this, his sixth release for Len Faki's label. "Resurrect" sees him skillfully strike a balance between musical elements and dance floor strictures as epic, Detroit techno chords are fused with rasping hi hats and a wiry rhythm. By contrast, "Turbine" sees Hodgetts take inspiration from the Luke Slater playbook, underscoring a lone, one-note riff that builds and ebbs over storming kicks and "Shackled Minds" is a militaristic, percussive workout. While Hodgetts is proving himself as a techno producer, he also delivers the smoky, down tempo "Xejn (8am mix)" and "Resurrect (3pm mix)", hinting at a serious creative mind from beyond the dance floor.
Originally released in 2015, Young Marco's "The Best I Could Do" shows that he is as adept in the studio as he is behind the decks. The renowned crate digger draws on his knowledge of underground house and techno for this understated, melancholic affair. Sad synths swirl up over a raw, resonating bass and the end result has a decidedly wintry feeling. House veteran Tom Trago drops a similar sounding track, "Brutal Romance (TT's Love Fix)". However, on this occasion, the groove is upbeat and the riffs are more insistent, but the same frazzled approach to production prevails. Keeping it atmospheric, Fatima Yamaha delivers the slow tempo, synth-heavy "The Creature From Culture Creation", which also featured on the original 2015 release.
The Archive series has allowed its owner, Developer, to show a different side to his music, and this is clearly audible on the eighth instalment. "Hooked In" sounds like the US producer is locking horns with early Octave One, as a tense, hypnotic rhythm gives way to soaring synths. "Towering Figure" also reveals a deeper side to the Developer canon, as eerie textures accompany bristling drums and a rolling groove prevail. However, the biggest change is audible on "Drama Cut", where noisy guitar, scratchy percussion and rolling beats make for a truly left of centre combination. By contrast, "Callisto", with its horror stabs, is almost conventional.
On the sixth edition of Exile, its co-owner Markus Suckut proves why he is one of Europe's finest contemporary techno producers. Each track is streamlined and functional, but none sound faceless or linear. The untitled A-side revolves around forceful kicks, rasping hi hats and an all-encompassing, trancey hook. Meanwhile, "B1" is powered by glassy shards of percussion and pin-prick techno bleeps. On "B2", he treats the listener to one of his rare trips down an acid wormhole, but of course this being Suckut, subtle but insistent percussive ticks and steady, relentless drums are never too far from the surface.
The fifth release in the Amotik series again sees its unknown author keeping his/her head down and focusing on underground tracks. That said, Amotik 005 isn't entirely beholden to the rules of hand-stamped engagement. Unlike many anonymous series "Pandrah" has obvious big-room ambitions as its solid kicks push it along at 135bpm. The bigger surprise occurs on "Solah". While similar in tempo and just as functional as "Pandrah" thanks to its crashing percussion, at its heart are fragile, soaring synths. They exude a sense of euphoria that sounds out of place on an anonymous techno record, and which makes Amotik 005 reassuringly different.
The retroverts at Super Rhythm Trax return with yet more acid madness courtesy of Matt Whitehead; he of Rebel Intelligence and Model Citizens fame. It's a pretty straight up affair on the Bombing EP, where opening cut "Crosstalk" batters you with 909 snare attacks and the hypnotic funk of 303 acid squelch. "Seeing Red" is a much more tunnelling affair where that little silver Roland box again does most of the talking. The title track is one of the real highlights; this sleazy and bombastic electro-funk number is reminiscent of Jimmy Edgar's finer moments until "Birdland" hammers the message home in style with yet more vintage flair and those early rave style steel drum presets in full effect.
Efde has only a few releases to his credit, but this outing on Tom Trago's label trumps his previous output. In its original format, the title track combines soaring trance melodies, rolling snare drums and a central riff that gets more and more noisy as the arrangement progresses. It makes for an intoxicating combination and is redolent of "Primary Roots", one of Trago's own, earlier productions. There is an eerie ambient version of the title track, but it's clear from the rest of the release that Efde's real home is out on the dance floor. "Just Did It" is a pulsing, electronic bass-heavy affair, while on "CMP135", he mines a deeper but still driving house sound.
This is Rhomb's third outing on Developer's label, but it's the first release that he hasn't shared with a peer. Listening to "Rebus", which unfolds to tense clicks and foreboding textures that linger over its bass-heavy rhythm, it sounds like this solo flight was well deserved. Rhomb's star quality is reinforced by "Worn Out Places", where he shifts styles to deliver a bleep heavy, nickel-plated percussive workout. "Run In Circles" sees a deeper departure into that sound, with the track's dubbed out, hypnotic groove recalling Silent Servant's contributions to Sandwell District. "Bullet Train" marks another change, but this time it's towards the dense, drum-heavy approach favoured by Modularz' owner.
Listening to "Purification", the track that kick starts this release on Spanish label Involve, the listener would be forgiven for thinking that they had somehow been led down a wormhole and back to the mid-90s. The combination of dark synths, bleak one-note riffs and relentless, rasping percussion all conspire to make for an intense minimal techno track. Both "Sensi" and "Naufragar" are more trippy, as Z.I.P.P.O aka Italian producer Giuseppe Maffei, flirts with acid tones and swirling, atmospheric textures. On "Tribe", he makes nods to a more contemporary sound, with a dense, seemingly unending groove that pans its way through a wind tunnel.
Last spotted cooking up science under his birth name Elliot Thomas, Etbonz gets his chunk on with a hurricane tapestry of cosmicity. Thumping with a loose but focused tech punch, the space between the layers of pads, synths, guitars and soaring FX allow you to weave, bob and lose all sense of time. Remix-wise Prins Thomas lowers the tempo and heightens the dubby aspects of the track with some really neat, intricate rolls on the percussion. Welcome to the future.
Steve Bailey's Makaton project is most closely associated with the singular Rodz-Konez label, but over the years, he has also released the project's uncompromising music on Token and Blueprint. Sea, his second outing on James Ruskin's label, starts with the oppressive bass and strings of "Durdle Door", before sliding into the high octane rhythm and dense, metal-plated drums of "High Priestess". Despite shifting so quickly between these contrasting styles, Bailey then moves again to a more stepping techno sound on "Coast to Coast", which has defined his output for Token. The final track, "Through Fire & Water", has found a natural home on Blueprint, as its visceral minimalism is redolent of James Ruskin at his most austere.
Max Graef and Glenn Astro's The Yard Work Simulator was a big release for Ninja Tune in 2016, gaining praise from all corners of the dance music world and, although it was largely a deep house affair, there was plenty in it for everyone. Launching 2017 with a remix EP seems like a sensible idea, especially when it's got a magnificent dub version of "W313D" by Max and Glenn themselves at the frontline. Byron The Aquarius delivers a magnetic, live reinterpretation of "Magic Johnson", but the real surprise comes from Greg Beato's version of "Money $ex Theme", with the LIES and Apron affiliate jacking the tune into his trademark style. IMYRMiND finishes off by deconstructing "China Nr 04", and turning the original into a wayward house experiment.
Chicago legend Robert Armani's influence lives on to this day, in house and techno alike and is certainly underrated. To his fans from way back, we'd be preaching to the choir but for younger heads: listen up! Here's an important history lesson, get up to speed on Lumberjack Disco Traxx. The release features a bunch of wicked re-issues such as the sleazy ghetto house of 1994's "Let Me Hit That" (which was recorded under the Traxman guise with Robert Johnson) while "Scoreboard" channels the Windy City hard house vibes of late nineties Relief Records and was previously only available on the 'Chicago Sound' cassette from 1997. Finally the fierce, attitude driven techno stomper "Up" is the kind of groove reminiscent of his timeless works on Djax Up Beats or ACV.
Will 2017 see the emergence of UK techno's 'golden age' as a key reference point? That seems to be the message from this debut release on Who's Susan. While William Caycedo's remix of Axefield's "SNY" is informed by the snappy drums of 90s deep house, both Raar and Axefield venture to the earlier part of that decade for inspiration. The original version of "SNY" is littered with martian bleeps and spacey chords as its languid groove unravels. Better still is Raar's "Santori"; the synths have a ghostly, haunted feeling and the brittle, acid soaked rhythm sounds redolent of artists like B12.
Vincent Koreman has a brace of albums to his credit as Drvg Cvltvre, but Night is the first time that one of his long-players has appeared in vinyl format. Perhaps as recognition of that achievement, this release on Pinkman is a sprawling, epic affair. It starts with the breathy vocals and drawn-out ebm of "Where Embers Die" before moving into the splurging acid of "Charge Of The Haploids' and the more typical gritty Dutch techno of "Shock Corridor". "Brakes Are Death" sees Koreman embark down a grating industrial path, but it isn't an entirely nocturnal affair - the title track revolves around a curiously euphoric, infectious riff wrapped up in a fuzzy, bass-heavy groove.
Garduno is the DJ/producer behind the Illegal Alien label, and after a series of releases for other imprints now makes his debut on Warm Up. Unfair Decisions is everything that fans of Oscar Mulero's label have come to love; there's the tough rhythms and hypnotizing textures of "Hard Decisions", and the peak time industrial kicks and rivet gun percussive bursts on "No Hay Seres Omnipotentes". Even when Garduno strays into more reflective mode as he does on "Alteraciones De Amor", there is still a hint of menace in the air, while on "Start Over", the Mexican artist delivers a driving, cyber-punk interpretation of dub techno.
Muna Musik has been successful by offering EPs (and one double-CD compilation) that gather together high quality tracks from a variety of artists. This fourth label missive retains this approach, offering up no less than six solid club cuts. DOP serves up two mixes of the deliciously wonky and off-kilter late night house work out "Be The Beat" (one containing some quirky, soul-flecked vocals, and the other without), while Ezekiel impresses with the skewed, bass heavy tech-house/deep-house/hip-house fusion of "Save The Children". German veteran Timo Mass drops the throbbing, bass-heavy pulse of big room chugger "Heaven Is Hell", before Romano Alfieri delivers two EP highlights. There's the strutting, bassline-driven disco-house funk of "Everybody Loves Fonzi", and the warehouse-friendly stomp of "Mission to Juno".
It may have its critics, but there is no doubting that early 90s US house records had a profound influence on underground dance music in recent years. This is audible on the latest release from J Choirboy. Speculation is rife that this is another pseudonym for Rene 'Shed' Pawlowiz - and certainly the title track has a similar feeling to the Wax releases. But irrespective of who is behind this EP, there is no doubt that it is early contender for record of the year. On "Full Effect", joyous piano keys crash in over a stomping groove and repetitive vocals are spliced up into a stutter. It's a different story on "Lights Down", where hoover samples shriek over gargantuan break beats, but it'll be hard to beat "Full Effect".
Dutch label 030303 has been home to some of the finest acid-heavy releases of the past decade - including work from Chris Moss Acid and Ceephax Acid Crew - and Strawberries perfectly fits in to that narrative. The work of Swedish producer Simmons, it starts with the slightly eerie but still melodic off-beat groove of "Lankheterbulten (Strawb edit)", which quickly slides down a ghostly wormhole. "Magick Machine (Strawb edit)" is a lullaby-like, vocal-led trance workout - think Thomas Heckmann's "Amphetamine" covered by Nathan Fake - while on "Magic Crystal", Simmons veers into the world of dust-covered 70s synths. Rounding off the release is the low-sling acid of "Quilting Song".
Drive is P.Leone's follow-up to last year's debut on Work Them. The author supposedly comes from Brooklyn and this four-tracker has the same grainy attitude as Frankie Bones or Steve Stoll. "9v9" is a relentless acid stomper that wouldn't sound out of place on a 90s Commiunique or Djax EP, while "Cold Metallic" is more detached and machine-like as gasping pistons and eerie textures power along a sleek rhythm. "Stability Control" sees the producer return once again to a raw, distorted style as sprung kicks and a distorted riff take centre stage. "Apex Corners" mines a similar path to the other tracks, but it is less visceral and more streamlined.