It's been sometime since we've heard a solo EP from Erol Alkan - in fact - this is the first time we've heard a solo EP from Erol Alkan. After years of remixing, editing, collaborating, and non-stop DJing, his debut proper comes through his own Phantasy Sound label. "A Hold On Love, with it's progressive, filtered chords, is one for the festival stages of summer, while "Bang!" sees Alkan deliver some dubby, jacked up techno similar to John Heckle. Alkan then provides some left of field sampling techniques in the breakbeat-driven zapping synths of "Check Out Your Mind".
For this latest Mr Jones EP by Nina Kraviz, she withdraws any sentiments of ghetto house heard on last year's debut album and turns in something house and techno inspired for Rekids. Her sultry, accented vocals still play a large role in her music however, best heard in the dark house of "Desire", the first track of this double EP. "Mr Jones" begins much the same was as "Desire", but when the beat does drop, it's not as tough, but twice as haunting - complementing the EPs cover art. Kraviz teams up with Luke Hess for the Detroit techno drum track that is "Remember", while "Black White" offers the some respite from the previous productions gloominess with something more festive and tropical. From here Kraviz provides some classic, minimal, and percussive deep house in "So Wrong", which leads perfectly into the club drumming of "Sheer". A superb follow up by Kraviz.
Killawatt and Osiris continue to push electronic boundaries with this extensive release. With initial roots as an album, Watt decided to scrap the LP plans and put it together as generous EP. Surging to the very fore of bass and techno, much of this is more of a listening experience than a dancefloor sensation. The best contrast can be found between the Villalobos-like harrowed textures of "Backed Into A Fucked Up Recess" and the thumping Regis-flavoured uncompromising techno. Elsewhere we get funky to the nagging clicks and whirs of "Square Trip (Round Trip)" and muffled loop insanity of "Highway Hypnosis". The walls are well and truly down. Let's keep them that way.
It's not been that long since the last Bambounou outing on 50 Weapons but Jeremy Guindo-Zegiestowski is at it once again with this precise two tracker of gold-standard hybrid cuts that feed off techno before mixing it up with a curious DNA that is all his own. "Ignition" takes a dub techno chord and makes it bounce and roll at a skewed angle while the rest of the track seems to be focused on charging ahead. "Take It Out On Me" is less convoluted with its staunch techno focus, all thick, thudding kick and cyclical patterns of robotic chatter, but there's still plenty of room for some quirky breakdowns and fills in amongst the more delineated fare.
If 2013 was the year that classic house made a comeback, it could also be viewed as the time when artists like Scuba drew on this source to drive their own creativity. That's not to suggest that Update - a "story so far" compilation from Scuba's back catalogue aimed at newcomers - is all about Kerri Chandler grooves or Larry Heard's drums. Indeed, tracks like "The Hope" and "Never" see the UK producer head in a decidely commerical direction and on "So You Think You're Special" and "Before" he turns his hand to slowburn ambient pop. But there is an underlying element from yesteryear on Update, be that on the soulful vocals of "Adrenalin" or the sweeping keys and dramatic break down of "You Got Me". 2013 belonged to classic house, but Scuba's ability to adapt was never far behind.
Oscar Mulero's Pole Group closes out the year with a collection from some of techno's most respected producers. While the overall tone on Unknown Landscapes is dark and at times unsettling, it never strays into the plodding furrowed-brow seriousness that often besets contemporary techno. DVS1's "Strobe" sees the US DJ deliver churning chords over a grinding, metallic rhythm, while Reeko's "Enlightenment Process" shifts from pounding broken beats into a spacey, filtered segue. That's not to suggest that the label or its owner have gone soft either; the squelchy acid and stinging riffs of Jonas Kopp's "M31" is as intense as it gets, but at the same time, contributions from Adam X and Forward Strategy Group tingle and pulse in a dubby, fuzzy afterglow.
The Killekill label rounds out a fine 2013 with another release from the deadly combination of Cassegrain and Tin Man. The trio first collaborated on the Berlin label with last year's Carnal EP which played out pretty much like you'd expect a record from Cassegrain and Tin Man to sound. The High & Low EP demonstrates the threesome remain on a production wavelength, with three tracks where Tin Man's mastery of acid lines align perfectly with the modern techno sound design of Cassegrain. The title track holds it down first, using the full ten minute duration to unfurl into a slowly swelling minimalistic acid epic, whilst "Sex Kit" demonstrates they can take it to the dancefloor, albeit a dancefloor well versed in acid tracks with slightly unnerving undercurrents, Final track "Sand Maze" floats through a soundscape of subtle, minimalist acid ambience with only the slightest hint of a kick.
Bas Mooy's label drops its most adventurous release yet. Paul Birken has been operating at the fringes of techno for years and puts out the kind of rough analogue music that would make the industrial art school boys shiver with fear. Distorted drums, intense and in your face volleys of percussion set the scene on this three-tracker. "Big Rig Barnacle" displays some musical leanings via its woozy chords and "Funnel Fiends" goes the opposite way thanks to its acid emissions. But the best thing about Birken is his sheer unpredictability and "Repeat Offender" sounds like a hard techno arrangement pulled apart, distorted to the max and then randomly reassembled.
Sleeparchive delivers part two of his A Man Dies In The Street series for Tresor, which by its title, sounds more suited for a release on Blackest Ever Black. When it comes to the music however, it's suitably made for a caged, concrete dwelling. The buzz of "5" sounds like an approaching swarm of angry hornets, while there are echoes of early Regis techno in "6". The repeat of "7" at some stages sound like a malfunction dial up modem stuck in a loop, while "8" again highlights the expertise of Sleeparchive's ability to create bleepy techno.
With his sizable history on labels like Fat City and Tectonic, Illum Sphere makes the leap to Ninja Tune with this esoteric concoction of slow house thud and starry-eyed melodics. "Sleeprunner" features all of the producer's strongest characteristics, from warm and immersive basslines to emotive strings, but all realised through a decidedly unconventional framework befitting of the reputation he has made for himself. Zed Bias meanwhile creates an equally housey version of the track that lays on some rigid claps, cheeky sub bass and fluttering arpeggios in a distinctly summery style. Clearly feeling doubly inspired from his first go at the track, Illum Sphere comes back around for a "re-run" of "Sleeprunner" that turns the track into a slow-release techno peppered with undulating acid lines and rugged drums.
Andy Graham isn't as prolific as some of his peers, but when he does release new material, it's always worth checking. The title track is based on a boxy arrangement, its densely moulded drums dubbed out but heavy, the metallic rhythms grinding with dark intent. Just as a lone bleep appears midway through so too does a moody vocal sample, lending the track some semblance of a human feeling. "I'll Take You There" is less foreboding but equally functional thanks to its angular rhythm, but the overall tone on this release is one of tightly controlled madness as the raw, banging groove and wild analogue squiggles of "Hing" demonstrate.
Kinetic Image sees the tireless Dutch producer known as Boris Bunnik offer up third album under the Conforce moniker. If you are starting to feel that Bunnik has dealt a deal with the devil that trades sleep for productivity you are not alone - Kinetic Image is his second album this year following the issue of a Versalife longplayer on Clone West Coast and let's not go into all the various EPs and 12"s Bunnik has put one of his various names to this year. Issued by Delsin, Kinetic Image sees Bunnik draw on the experience of his recent non-dancefloor focused output to deliver an album that moves away from regimented 4/4 beats and into slower, more surreptitious tempos. The subaqueous electro vibe we've come to associate with Bunnik still remains and the Dutchman's loyal fans will love this set.
It's a sign of Lucy's increasing popularity that he's now releasing on one of techno's 'big room' labels. Yet despite appearing on Chris Liebing's CLR, "201 Phasing" is still decidedly experimental. It makes some concessions to the dance floor in the shape of insistent filtering and a menacing acid line, but the underlying approach is still off centre and tripped out. Dadub's remix pushes the abstract agenda even further, with limber broken beats and hazy chords bubbling up to the surface. In fact, the only real dancefloor version comes from label owner Chris Liebing, whose "Triple Bell edit" is constructed around dubby beats, firing hi hats and a cacophony of chiming bells.
The Graze collaboration between New Kanada label owner Adam Marshall and fellow Canadian producer Christian Andersen have been in rare form this year, delivering three completed works, and now a fourth before the year's end. The Edges album is one of the better LPs we've heard in 2013 that combines elements of deep techno and lo-fi house - with the slightest flecks of footwork and dubstep-influenced elements. For a lighter combination of all three, "Skip/Crush", the album's opener, is a perfect example of this, while "Cold Drop" is more bass inclined with warbles of grimey low end. For something decidedly techno, "Stack Away" delivers the goods, and for something leaning towards house music there's the euphoric "Airror" and urban sounding "Ripley".
Matt Edwards' label has such strong ties to Berlin, but this release's title doesn't imply that Rekids is opposed to German electronic music. The reality is that it refers to that older meaning of 'versus', the 'versioning' that fuelled dub sound systms. Certainly Berghain residents Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock put their stamp on Rekids tracks. In Dettmann's case it's ticking percussion and a nagging acid line that lends an air of menace to Mr G's "U Askin?", while for Klock, his "Timepiece" reshape of Deepchild vs Jamie Anderson's "The Clock" provides an opportunity to layer metallic rhythms on top of each other. Roman Fluegel's tranced out version of Radioslave's "My Bleep", which was one of Rekids first releases, completes the package.
Autoreply label owner OCH invites Kashawar into the fold for their 16th release, following the rising German producer's breakout releases for underground imprints Project London and Soul.on Records. For his Autoreply debut, Kashawar presents Moments and Lost Memories (Parts 1 & 2) which covers all bases of his production palette. Kicking off with "A Feeling" you'll instantly get a "Hi-Tek Jazz" flavour before moving onto "Broken" - a playful yet refined ten minute contemporary minimal work-out. Flip the disc for "Over" and the tension starts to build before the release climaxes with "Flos" a speaker shaking dub work-out of the highest order. With collaborations with Steve O'Sullivan on Mosiac plus Pluie/Noir appearances approaching, it's clear Kashawar is a special young talent!
Sawlin, Convextion and Ross 154 feature on Delsin's centenary series as it belatedly reaches its mid point! Despite sounding like a camera model, the 100DSR/VAR series has thus far done a fine job of representing everything the Amsterdam-based Delsin has achieved musically in its 17 years of output to date. This third 100DSR sees Vault Series regular Sawlin debut proper on Delsin having featured on last year's Inertia series for sub label Ann Aimee, whilst there's also a wonderfully insouciant production from Texan producer Convextion. It's perhaps most notable however for the inclusion of the excellent "Moon FM Desire" from Ross 154, aka Dutch hero Jochem 'Neworldaquarium' Petri, which has been lifted from the Delsin archives for its first appearance on vinyl.
The last time Robert Hood referenced the number 11 was the beatless track "The Age Of Eleven", appearing towards the end of his Wire To Wire album released ten years ago on the all encompassing Peacefrog Records. That, however, is where the similarities to this EP, Eleven, on Hood's own M-Plant, end. The chimes of "Alarm" sound similar to Luke Slater's "Bell Blocker", and a lot of what else can be heard that legendary album The Messenger. But again it's the title track that provides another production where the city of Detroit literally resonates within the music, painting visual imagery of factories and assembly lines done in a way that instantly make you think: Robert Hood.
All lists are subjective, but there's no doubt that Bambounou aka Jeremy Guindo-Zegiestowski has done a fine job in compiling this selection from Modeselektor's 50 Weapons label. Tracks that start off as functional techno workouts - Datei42's "They Explore Themselves" and the Truncate take on Benjamin Damage's "010x" - progress to reveal glowing chord sequences, while the compilation twists and turns through noisy soundscapes (Benjamin Damage's "Spirals"), thumb-snapping tight footwork (Addison Groove & Sam Binga's "Thr3id)" and some ultra-lean techno from Marcel Dettmann and Cosmin TRG. However, nothing can compare to the washes of old school rave synths and lithe break beats that constitute Shed's "The Dirt".
Since its emergence in 2011, Shifted and Ventress's Avian and Mira labels have become outlets for like-minded producers to express themselves in different creative manners, some choosing to work anonymously (Bleaching Agent) and others not (Burma Camp, 440PPM). A Vision Of Love falls in the former category, with the producer surfacing on Avian earlier this year with the first in a series of a series of self-styled "S & M techno tools" under the banner of Lessons In Hate. With the true identity of A Vision Of Love still very much under wraps, Part Two of the Lessons In Hate series now arrives with chiselled techno drums traversing squalling, savagely equalised electronics crafted using vintage gear and driven by a passion for classic second wave Detroit techno, whilst further alluding to A Vision Of Love's basic themes of S&M.