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Reviewed this week
British techno stalwart Luke Slater is now two decades into his ongoing Planetary Assault Systems adventures. To celebrate, he's handed over tracks recorded over the last 20 years to a hand picked group of remixers. It's a faultlessly floor-focused affair, with Lucy, Steve Bicknell, Function and Slam - whose acid-fired re-make of "Temporary Suspension" is an album highlight - all delivering typically no-nonsense interpretations of Slater's tracks. The producer himself delivers a handful of 'live edits' - versions created for his live shows - while Detroit legends Octave One smother "Booster" in classic Motor City melodies and the most positive of synthesizer refrains.
Ashley Burchett has been releasing on Token since its inception a decade ago, so the direction on Metropolitan comes as a surprise. The title track is more direct than is Burchett's usual appraoch, with a fizzling din riding an up-tempo, linear rhythm, heavy drums and cheese-wire sharp percussion. It sounds like SP-X going head to head with Robert Hood. On "The Absent Mind", there is another unexpected move; the UK producer delivers a metallic, clanging rhythm that fuses Chain Reaction's dubby repetition with the locked on, linear approach of the aforementioned Mr Hood. Only on "Fallen Columns" does O stay close to the stepping sound that he made his name with - but even there, the approach is understated and ghostly.
Get to know: Denham Audio continue their powerful 130 jungle charge into the darkest corners of the dance with their Artifice debut. "Leighton Buzzin" rolls with bulbous subs and fractured Think breaks while "Npfo" opts for an icier vibe with its cold synths and crucial stepper drop. Version-wise Walton adds a little flutey prang, Corticyte takes on a dungeon tour while Rivet crunches up the dance with some spiked out acid techno. Two dank originals, three equally murked remixes, documents don't get much better than this.
Resist, Markus Suckut's latest album, is released on his own Exile label and plays out like a DJ set. Spread across nine 'movements', it starts with the vocal sampling, bell chiming first installment, before Suckut nudges the listener towards the dance floor with the dense rhythms of number two. However, it becomes clear that Suckut does not succumb to predictability and Resist does not follow the typical conventions of a linear DJ set. Both "Third Movement" and "Fifth Movement" are deep, rolling grooves and the fourth installment centres on a tracky house rhythm. Resist never goes for the jugular - Suckut even slips in an ambient track near the end - and it's this unwillingness to go down the obvious, banging route that makes it so alluring.
Rotterdam techno legend Benny Rodrigues aka ROD returns to Klockworks for more functional and powerful DJ tools guaranteed to rock any room with energy. Opening with the epic "Hor" guided by its absolutely explosive synth arpeggio (think Vitalic!) that builds up to a mighty crescendo, there's more dancefloor fodder courtesy of the darkly hypnotic drone techno of "Dubix" treading a similar path as label mate Etapp Kyle. Rodrigues throws a nice curveball on the dark and aggressive electro-funk workout "Nitecollage" while "Pull" is sure to get some hands in the air with this adrenalised and euphoric number geared for some serious dancefloor drama.
It's a case of gamekeeper turned poacher as Ostgut boss Nick Hoppner appears again on the label, following his 2015 debut album, Folk. This three-tracker is like a distillation of his time spent in the Panorama Bar booth. The title track is a hypnotic, techy groove, covered in warm, hazy chords and redolent of classic David Alvarado's Sun Children material. On "Still", Hoppner keeps it deep, but injects some trippy acid undercurrents. The closing track, "Out of Sight", is the most dance floor friendly, with Hoppner opting for a lithe, swinging rhythm as a backing for his warm, sun-kissed chords and melodies.
Sebastien Michel aka UVB delivers a cranium-shredding follow-up to his 2015 album on Mord. It starts with the distorted kicks and bone crunching rhythms of "Intolerance", the kind of gabba-influenced track that calls out all of the standard gloomy techno for its inadequacies. "Least At Last" follows with a storming, cyber-punk assault on the senses, while "We're All Responsible" veers down the PCP/Mover direction with dystopian textures interspersed with hammering kicks. The French producer gives no quarter here and even more funky tracks like "Join In The Ranks" sees UVB deliver a dense, intense take on tribal techno.
Detroit's DJ Bone is and always has been one of his city's most underrated producers. In fact, the man is a killer behind the decks too, mashing up house and techno with that inimitable US speed that has also been championed by the likes of DJ Rush et al. His relationship with Bristol's Don't Be Afraid has been a fruitful one of the last year or two, releasing a couple of gnarly EPs under the Differ-ENT moniker, a sound that expands upon his comparatively more rigid techno sound. This is the debut album under the Differ-ENT alias, and we most certainly agree that It's Good To Be Differ-ENT." There isn't a dud tune on here, and for an LP that focusses primarily on the dancefloor, it manages to convey a strong narrative throughout, built with mastery and dedication by this talented artist. Tunes like "Met Allergic Flew Antsy" or "Marvel Less" are muscly and fast-paced, but there is still plenty of exploration going on at their core, while remnants of electro can be heard on tunes like "Compute Her". This is a vibrant LP, made up of many different guises and shades, all finely tuned around the dancehall, and strangely fitting with the UK's lust for the broken sound. Recommended.
Techno pioneer Carl Craig's new album features eight tracks from his back catalogue re-composed in collaboration with classical musicians such as Francesco Tristano and the Les Siecles orchestra conducted by Francois-Xavier Roth. Originally released on the 2004 EP Just Another Day, this revised version of the anthemic "Sandstorms" will be featured on the new album entitled Versus. "Sandstorms" (VCO Update) is a nice modern revision of the track for modern dancefloors in all its seductive and slow burning glory.
Despite his long association with fellow Detroit artists like Omar-S and OB Ignitt, Luke Hess remains out on his own. This is largely because, as Facette shows, he has a unique sound that draws on European as well a US influences. Opening track "Emeralds" has echoes of Motor City synths, but at its heart is a driving, dub rhythm. Similarly, on "Lumen", euphoric chord stabs are fused with a heads-down groove that'll resonate in big rooms. "Myriads" sees Hess return to Detroit techno influences with waves of hissing percussion riding a snaking, metallic groove with echoes of vintage Robert Hood and Stacey Pullen.
Fresh from his exploits with King Kashmere, beat alchemist Bambooman crashes the party at Accidental with four more singular experiments; "Shudder" rolls on a stuttering break that's paced in such a way it's as much UKG as it is techno. Both "Grasp" and "M1" show off more of a house side spectrum as the former insists with an almost Detroitian charm while "M1" scrapes strange strings to create unique texture. Finally "Kyrian" takes us on a futurist twist on broken beat with spacious kicks and a warm, fat analogue synth. Some say shudder, we say goosebumps...
After a brief flirtation with Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Jared Wilson is back on Jerome Hill's Super Rhythm Trax imprint. Predictably, he's in a retro-futurist kind of mood, delivering tracks that tip a wink to a variety of vintage house and techno productions. He begins with the Larry Heard style warmth, Chez Damier percussion and Detroit techno cymbal lines of "Getting That Feelin", before diving headfirst into the world of classic Chicago jazz on heavyweight acid wriggler "It's The Message". He tehn carries on with the ghostly chords, intelligent techno electronics and mind-altering acid lines of "Midnight On Ecorse Creek", before Wilson caps a fine EP via the Mr Fingers style deep house-jack of "Acid Feeling".
Haslam is one of the more prolific techno artists, with four albums - three under his own name and one as Romans with Tin Man - to his credit in the past four years. As Scale demonstrates though, a high volume of releases has not had a detrimental impact on the quality of his work. The title track on his latest outing for Bunker shows why he is such a talented artist. Despite easily passing the 130bpm mark, its combination of bleeding acid and whiplash percussion is imbued with an innate sense of funk, in the same manner as early Cristian Vogel or vintage Communique releases. There's also a real treat for Bunker fans with Mike Servito and Justin Cudmore team up to turn "Scale" into a throbbing underground groove.
Houle is one of the most quietly prolific techno producers out there and on his latest album for Items & Things sees him push in a deeper direction than before. There are echoes of Houle's minimal past throughout Sinister Mind - and it is most evident on the rickety "Conbular" - but the strength of this work lies in its author's abilities to fuse precise, dissected rhythms with diverse sound pallettes. This results in the Aril Brikha meets Minus deep techno of "Paligama"; the title track, where Dave Gahan-style vocals are merged with evocative chords and the ebm-influenced groove of "Maskatron". Houle even turns his hand to underground electro on "Bassoffific", where bugged out 808s come together with his microscopic percussion to form an unusual, highly distinctive arrangement.
There's no doubt that 90s UK techno is popular again - just look at Discogs prices for confirmation of the renewed interest in this form. But what do those revered acts sound like now? The exhaustive 2016 compilation, Brainbox, did much to shine a light on those artists' current trajectory and this follow up remix package also does a fine job. The Black Dog deliver an atmospheric ambient take on Scanner's "Eros", while on Future Sound of London's "Monolith", a somewhat bleaker, dystopian take on ambience is audible. That said, classic UK techno also had a place on the dance floor; Kirk Degiorgio's tunneling take of B12's "World's End" - remixed under his Future/Past name - and Mark Broom's skeletal electro version of the same track show that nearly 25 years later, that this remains the case.
The second release on Virgo comes from Electric Rescue aka Antoine Husson. The French producer has a sizeable catalogue and has released music on a wide range of labels, including Cocoon and Bedrock. On Face, he strikes a balance between modern and classic sounds. The title track centres on a driving rhythm and rock hard beats but is also shot through with mysterious melodies. Similarly, "Forwer" resounds to 90s chord stabs but boasts the compressed beats and percussive bursts of modern techno, while "Kerken" is a hazy, frazzled electronic cut. Despite being a relatively new label, Virgo has tapped some great remixers, with Setaoc Mass dropping a frenetic, chord-heavy take on "Forwer" and Nima Khak turning "Kerken" into a tunneling, hypnotic track.
Confusingly, Woo York is a duo from Ukraine, who have released on labels as diverse as Soma and Planet Rhythm. Alien Worlds sees them continue their habit of putting out material on a variety of imprints and is their debut release for Rodhad's label. However, one listen to the original material on this EP is enough to confirm that Dystopian is the right home for it. "Black Rain" has an epic, atmospheric feel, but is contained in a tunneling groove. On the title track, the pair utilise the kind of dense drums and skipping rhythms associated with Klockworks as the backdrop for a dark trance riff to unrvael, while "Uranium Echoes" is a tripped out, acidic groove. It's only on The Advent's visceral take on the title track that Woo York re-enter the club techno stratosphere.
Nthng has put out a handful of records, mainly for Lobster Theremin, and now follows these with an expansive, varied debut album. There's the lean but deep Detroit techno of "Galaxy", the title track's spacious claps and dramatic synth washes as well as "Soms" and "Abyss", where he lays down the kind of billowing but immersive dance floor tracks that have echoes of classic Sterac and Ross 154. There are hints of Lobster Theremin's more typically abrasive approach on the tonal blips of "Unity", but in the main this is a reflective affair, as evidence by the sensuous ambience of "Touches" and "In My Dreams".
Following a surprise outing on Transmat this time last year, Deep'a and Biri return to the Black Crow label they established back in 2013. This time round, the Tel Aviv duo has delivered two distinctly different cuts. "Basic Cycle" sees them fuse classic, Motor City techno percussion and chords with the kind of looped riffs that were once a feature of late '80s house cuts from Detroit. As a result, the rack has a real warehouse-friendly feel, suggesting that it will suit clubs with big sound systems and even bigger rooms. "Overdrum" is a no-nonsense techno workout built around their impeccable percussion programming, and very little else. It works largely due to the dense layers of drums they employ, including some particularly carnival-friendly hits.
Tecture aka Paul Pankow is a new name, and he makes his debut release on BTAIM. Already home to producers like Ricardo Esposito, the label has enjoyed a steadily growing reputation as a purveyor of underground house and techno. Certainly, Lord of Mech will do its reputation no harm. "How to Open Prime Time" is the most dance floor-friendly track. It centres on a bleeding, acidic bass and a mechanical, metallic rhythm, supported by tough claps. The title track is deeper and features a mournful synth line supporting another resonating bass. Trevino's version retains the original track's bass, but he uses a more rolling, deeper groove as a backdrop.
Exclusives
AGENTS OF TIME - Day One EP (Obscura Music)
MARC HOULE - Sinister Mind (Items & Things)
EAMON HARKIN - Untethered (Mister Saturday Night)
Exclusives
LOGOS/MUMDANCE - Move Your Body/Hall Of Mirrors (Tectonic)
MUSEUM - MDR 21 (Marcel Dettmann Germany)
LUKE HESS - Facette (Echocord Colour Denmark)
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