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Reviewed this week
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The fourth in the Hot series sees Rushmore flirt with bass, techno and footwork - often within the same track. "Paladium" sets the tone for the release, with tight, syncopated drums and a stepping rhythm underscoring instant stabs. "Highroad" features similar rattling rhythms, but it sounds like Rushmore is channelling late 90s Dr Dre as the groove is infused with chilling strings. After that, things start to get chaotic; "NPG" features more of the same rattling rhythms and buzz-saw riffs, while "Silent Melody" returns to the smoked out, chilling sounds of "Highroad" - this time populated by ghostly voices - and "She Wants" finishes with brittle, glassy percussion and breathy vocal tones.
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Pomelo has been releasing music since 1994, with tracks in the early days coming from DJ Hell, Punk Anderson and Hi-Lo, while in more recent years the label has been a platform for Alex Cortex, DJ Stingray, Brendon Moeller and Tin Man. This second 20 Yrs various artists EP adds to Pomelo's milestone celebrations by featuring tracks from Tin Man, who delivers an archetypical acid techno production called "Detroit", while Macro associates Elektro Guzzi provide a vamping "Radicale" which is forever peaking. It's Digilog who pulls out the wild card though with a cavernous, 303-fuelled "Mind Gap".
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Always one to charge into more interesting corners of the techno world, Adam X is in fine fettle as he drops his latest album for Sonic Groove, the first on his own label since 1998's Audiobiography. The tone is very much stout and stern, from the industrial-tinged drum hits to the cold and eerie synth content, but of course it's in the rhythmic department where Adam X really shines. At every turn there are intriguing grooves to latch onto, from the drunken lope of the title track with its anthemic hip hop vocal rip, to the opening broken techno drama of "Interchanges". There are more stripped down moments such as the restrained cycles of "Catenary", and some piston pumping bangers like "On The Verge Of Decimation", making this an engaging listen as well as a great collection of techno tracks.
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According to their label, Fjaak live and sleep in their studio, but whatever about their methodology, it is clear that they are doing something right. The title track is a monstrous affair, based on a gargantuan stepping rhythm and tough breeze block beats as the trio shoot out Landstrumm-esque grating noise. In stark contrast is "The Wind". Deeper and groovier, it centres on breezy chords but retains dance floor clout thanks to the shards of hissing percussion. "Curious" sees Fjaak back to the same kind of territory as "Attack"; the only difference is that this time, the groove is straighter, but the grainy drums are just as relentlessly unforgiving.
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The Perc Trax Ltd label comes up trumps again as one of Perc's secret DJ weapons is opened up to a new generation of techno selectors via some stellar remixes. As Drax, Thomas Heckmann first issued "Phosphene" via his own Trope Recordings label back in 1993, with the pummelling acid number later used by Carl Cox on his classic 1995 mix CD F.A.C.T. Like the Matt Whitehead release that kicked off Perc Trax Ltd, the original is not present though it's spirit very much lives on the remixes here from Perc & Truss, AnD and The Exaltics. All three are naturally pretty bracing affairs, though it's nice to see Mancunian duo AnD add a dash of punk funk swagger into the mix.
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If there's someone you can trust to remix your music it's Svreca, so why not get him to remix everything like Kontra-Musik has done for Andreas Tilliander's TM404 project. Svreca shapes TM404's experimental Roland drum and acid machine productions into something more accessible for the DJ than the original album, while adding his own, brooding, trademark touch to each track. Basically, if you want five cuts of sublime, deep acid techno that's on more of a linear tip than Varg's productions, look no further than this - Ulf Eriksson, you've done it again.
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It's some 19 years since Surgeon dropped Pet 2000, arguably the most successful of his early forays into rambunctious, hard-wound techno. Here, it gets a reissue in newly remastered form. Despite its vintage, the EP still bristles with raw energy, a facet that makes it sound particularly relevant right now. Opener "Badger Bite" is typically uncompromising, with looped steel drum melodies and pulverizing rhythms being whipped into a dense, dancefloor frenzy. If anything, the kick drums and distorted stabs on "Electric Chicken" are even more intense, a feeling exaggerated by Surgeon's full-throttle production. There's a little relief in the shape of "Reptile Mess", which sounds positively dystopian in its freakish combination of undulating bass, cymbal-heavy percussion and psychedelic electronics.
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Following releases on Black Sun Records and Candela Rising, promising UK techno producer Manni Dee gets seriously heavy on Simon Shreeve's (aka Kryptic Minds) Osiris Music. Manni Dee provides the label with three tracks, and the first, "Nicotine Kisses", is a rolling, but broken beat techno jam similar to Lucy's work before his Word Play For Working Bees album, while a bass rumbling but beatless "Man Is Free, Man Is Freedom" sounds similar to the cavernous sounds of Japanese duo Steven Porter. "Sister Nobody" is frenetic and beat down once again with Milton Bradley-like atmospheres only with a UK touch of sewer bass, while Monic (aka Simon Shreeve) throws down a syncopated remix that could also quite happily find a home on Perc Trax.
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Bass Mooy's Mord project has been steadily growing since its first EP last year, and this is thanks to a collective of new names and talents largely emanating from Holland's Rotterdam. This time it's Sebastien Michel aka UVB who churns out the goods for the imprint, and after already two EP's for Mord, he's basically become a regular. "Mixtion" is a jittery techno bomb filled with minimal melodies, wheras "Second Life" is almost orchestral thanks to its Population One-stylled sounds. "Anxiety is another slice of oddball noise futurism, and "Supertronic" is the militant bomb for total floor pulverisation. Gnarly as hell and shouldn't be missed.
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Milanese techno outpost M_Rec continue to flex hard in 2014, with its seventh release so far this year introducing the talents of US newcomer Allen. Some four tracks deep, the Gravity Assist EP suggests Chris Allen is keenly attuned to the future glancing sounds that characterised much of techno's first wave and how to translate that approach in a manner appealing to the modern techno selectors and collectors. In the case of the opening title track, it's the laser-like bassline that pulses with kinetic energy, with Allen wisely keeping the rhythmic elements to a minimum. The subsequent "EM26" is reminiscent of Something In The Sky era Mills, whilst "MH370" pairs morse code style bleeps with trimmed drum textures. Final track "Kepler" sees Allen unleash something approaching a brooding techno monster to round out a confident debut from this newcomer.
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The term 'locked groove' may be primarily associated with tough, loopy techno, but Tim Van de Meutter's latest release under this name is radically different. The title track starts with stripped back, minimal house beats, before de Meutter introduces a dramatic, surging bassline and tranced out synth lines. It's to the producer's credit that he manages to keep the groove dance floor-based. "Meditations In An Emergency" pushes even farther in an esoteric direction; a chattering rhythm and acid warbles provide the backdrop for Locked Groove to provide the kind of dreamy synth scapes that Derrick May used to produce. Van de Meutter's stage name may not fit this music, but "Meditations" is still deep electronic music at its best.
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Luke Slater's label celebrates the big four-o with this unconventional release courtesy of Chris Jarman. "The Bailiff" is the most functional track on offer, a peak-time affair full of stomping beats, trippy sound effects and snare rolls crashing in for maximum impact. "Death to the Valley" is also geared for the dance floor, but here the bass bursts into big puddles of fuzzy viscosity. It's the sonic equivalent of a blister being lanced as a jackhammer bashes away in the background. "Network Rail" sees Jarman opt for a different approach as hammering, stepping drums replicate the sound of chattering train, while "Radio" rounds out this unusual release with a stepping rhythm shot through with searing, noisy riffs.
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Curated by Scottish act Clouds, this compilation of Scottish techno doesn't pull any punches. Raucous, unruly and noisy, it starts with the mad sirens and glitchy percussive slivers of DJ Hesburger's "Roll Up Your Sleeves, Welcome To The Dance" - a statement of sorts for the rest of the release. Space Yourself's "Maximum Respect Goes Out To You All" and Dance Company's "Berzerkerz (Hardcore Young Team remix)" relive the glory days of jungle and hardcore, the former unravelling in a flurry of hyperactive breakbeats, the latter by raw breaks and deft vocal snatches. Boa Dona An Taus delivers droning abstraction and Clouds' own contribution sees them deliver a typically grainy, broken beat techno workout. It's a fittingly noisy end to the first chapter in modern Scottish hardcore.
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Responsible for two killer releases on DVS1's Mistress label, Doubt now drops an excellent record for Semtek's imprint. The title track is a linear, pulsing groove, led by hypnotic pads and electronic squiggles, but featuring a rhythm that's tough enough for techno DJs. "When I Was Young" sees the US producer focus more on techno, with a droning sequence unravelling over a rolling, grainy groove. Doubt goes off the dance floor radar on "Dios", using broken beats and a buzzing bass to create a captivating alternative, but soon enough he's back with the Mr G-style filters and punishing subs of "Frosx."
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After a stellar debut on Livity Sound's Dnuos Ytivil sub label, man like Bruce adds Hessle Audio to his prospering profile with Not Stochastic. Representing the crucial UK label's first release of 2014, the standard of productions on show from Bruce demonstrates Hessle Audio's quality over quantity approach continues to pay dividends. The triplet also demonstrate Bruce has quite a few strings to his production bow, with the general vibe differing from the weighty swung techno of that excellent Dnuos Ytivil record. From the off, Bruce exudes a trippy style of sonics that bring to mind the work of Dynamo Dreesen or SVN.
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Modern Heads is a collaborative project between Italian producers Dino Sabatini and Gianluca Meloni, and as this release so ably demonstrates, they make a slick and sophisticated form of underground techno. Accordingly, there is a dearth of pounding beats and wind tunnel effects on "Beginning"; instead, it centres on a liquid, acidic groove and insistent tones that segue effortlessly into the deepest underground techno regions. On "Unknown Route", the mood darkens considerably; the duo's bass tones are more resonating, waves of percussion hiss and lash through the arrangement and a churning filter rises like a grey wave on a stormy sea. It makes for a brilliantly dramatic piece of electronic music.
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Johnathan Krohn and Karl Meier are Talker, the latest addition to the Downwards stable. Meier, as Kalon, is also credited for releasing one of Sandwell District's strongest records with the dynamic Born Against 12" in 2008, while Krohn has appeared on Downwards once before by contributing "Cut The Weight" to the label's Halha compilation. For Talker's debut album, the duo combine industrial overtones and mechanistic screeches with blustery clouds of Dadub-like atmospheres and wailing walls of emotional synth drenched in reverb. There are regimented drums throughout too, and for some gritty, beaten down Downwards techno check out "Frame Capture" and "Anthony".
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Hard Wax doesn't get it wrong very often, and its description of Scottish producer Deepbass' latest release as a "big room DJ tool techno remix set" is largely accurate. In its original format, "Sleepwalker" is indeed a tough, rolling groove and Max M's version inhabits a similar space, as tranced-out chords and a heavier, purring bass are added to Deepbass' robust structure. However, there is more to this release than that: Spanish artist PEARL turns the track into a lithe, stepping affair, led by subtle, up-building filters, while Abstract Division's version veers away from harshness and into the shimmering key-led trance sounds of mid-90s Music Man releases.
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The past and the present collide on this sampler for the latest Watergate mix. Martin Eyerer's "Reckless" draws on classic acid house tropes, including searing acid lines and rolling snares - reminiscent to the ones on Laurent X's timeless Machines - but the bass growls with the kind of aggression only a modern artist could make. Stephan Hinz's "Hungry" is the most contemporary sounding track, a jacking, rolling affair that unwinds to the sound of sheet metal percussion and eerie bleeps. Clint Stewart's "Drenched" also takes inspiration from the old school, its evocative, building chords combined with a wailing siren that sounds like a modern take on Lil Louis.
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There are a number of ways to work within the dub techno framework and on Freundlich, German duo Klaus Rakete and Mirko Hunger's latest release, two quite different approaches are on offer. "Pacifier" is an aptly named affair, its chords surging and flowing gently, making for waves of layered, serene sound that never edges towards the dance floor. The title track is a different matter. While it too revolves around chords, this time the tone is darker and more threatening. Combined with a lean, pulsing groove and a spiky rhythm, "Freundlich" is the ominous, insistent opposite to the serene sound presented on "Pacifier".
Exclusives
BRUCE - Not Stochastic (Hessle Audio)
VARIOUS - I Care Because You Don't (Turbo Recordings)
MANNI DEE - Dreams Fears & Idols (Osiris Music UK)
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