Danny Tenaglia is a stone cold legend, but his profile has waned significantly over recent years. Given that it's 25 years since the release of his first production, this first contribution to the Balance series - is well timed. Pleasingly, it seems Tengalia still "has it it". Throughout the collection, the veteran NYC DJ maintains a fearsome energy level, mixing things up via a track list that spans chunky tech-house, darkroom tribal, heavily percussive fare (see Michel Cleis' dub of Basement Jaxx's "Mermaid of Salinas") and intelligent techno revivalism (Dax J's brilliant "Dreamscape" and Ho's "Deletion 3"). It is, of course, an impeccable selection, as you'd expect from a man with Tengalia's undoubted pedigree.
Dominic Fernow dons his Prurient hat for this split release with Karl O'Connor as Ugandan Methods. As you might expect, it's not for the light-hearted; "Call 1" features the Downwards boss' dense, grainy broken beats mixed with Fernow's wounded screeches amid bursts of white noise. "Call 2" is built on a similar approach, but this time the churning noise and dense drums are interspersed with dramatic, dark synths that spiral and twist. The third "Call" provides a surprise, heading back to the loopy techno of early Downwards, but it's only a temporary deviation and the fourth and final "Call" sees the duo deliver a drum-led, droning rhythm.
This is the first Orphx release on Sonic Groove this year and it sounds like there has been no change to the Canadian duo's modus operandi. "What Will Burn" is a pulsating groove that sounds increasingly hypnotic and menacing as it snakes its way over steely drums. "Drowning For You" is similar in sound to 2010's Black Light release - also on Sonic Groove - its brooding bass underpinned by chattering beats and percussive volleys. Finally, there's "Tangled Paths". Less oppressive than Orphx's usual approach, its stepping rhythms and lumbering drums suggest that Oddie and Sealey are sometimes not quite as serious as their catalogue suggests.
While albums have never been the focus of most techno producers' careers, it's still surprising to find that Satellite is Sam Paganini's first full length. Given that veteran Italian producer released his first 12" back in 1994, it's been a long time coming. Happily, Paganini has decided to stick to what he does best, filling Satellite with the kind of throbbing, floor-friendly tackle with which he's becoming accustomed. Of course, there's plenty of variety within that, from the rave-inclined pump of the Dubfire-ish "Down" and smooth, deep house-influenced sweetness of "Silver Panorama", to the cacophonous jazz fills and thunderouds bottom end of "Lotus" and deliciously melodious "Sunflower".
Michigan-based North lake, AKA producer Isaac Delongchamp, has previously impressed with 12" singles that effortlessly join the dots between woozy acid house, alien techno and murky, off-kilter deep house. Here he continues the trend with a pleasingly varied, electronic and analogue-sounding four-tracker for Permanent Vacation. There's much to admire, from the ambient period Aphex Twin melodies and hypnotic rhythms of "Isoteric", to the skittering 808 electro-meets-dub house wooziness of "Prism". Arguably best of all, though, is "Mobius Tapes", a shuffling fusion of tumbling melodies, bulging electronic sub bass and a fine, techno-influenced deep house groove.
After the success of Rodhad's Token debut, Spomeniks, it was only a matter of time before we saw the much-loved German return to the bustling Token, and for lovers of techno made to be played in a power plant this record is a no-brainer. Rodhad provides two versions of Humea, and the first is deep and bleepy with hi-hats that cut straight through the mix, while the dirt mix is heavier in bass with bleeps that are scattered not singular. Meanwhile label mainstay Phase provides this release with the one remix, which as you can expect is complimentary to the original and sleek as always with a nifty surprise breakdown.
At present, it seems that Jacob Korn can do no wrong. Hot on the heels of his brilliant EP1 comes this foray into retro-futurist techno for Uncanny Valley's Shtum offshoot. While something of a surprise to those used to his distinctive take on deep house, Korn is an old techno head (according to the accompanying press blurb, his first unreleased forays into production during the 1990s were in a techno vein). There's a genuine no-nonsense feel throughout, and plenty of audible references to the early '90s; "Backstar" and "Komputermukke" for example, both sound like vintage bleep techno records - all heavy sub, clattering machine drums and sparse melodies. The hypnotic, stab-heavy "Robot's Life Cycle" is probably our pick, but all four tracks are excellent.
Sub Club resident Domenic Capello teams up with Lee Duncan for a release that lives up to its name. Ceol is the Gaelic word for music and this three-tracker has no shortage of musical moments. The title track is led by a ponderous bass and a rolling groove. It sounds like Octave One united with Prescription-style house as tripped out keys create a beautiful feeling. "D3" is harder and faster, with any semblance of melody stripped away and a focus on the brutal bass. However, Capello finds it hard to stray too far from his love of US dance music and "Third Thought" unravels with all the shimmering synth mystery of early Carl Craig productions.
Following on from the tough techno of its first compilation sampler, Field follow it up with a deeper and more reflective approach. Remote's "Echo Of You" has some dance floor bearing, thanks to its gentle, dubby beats, but it's all about the wispy, floaty synths. There are no beats at all on Varg's "Ohns Odegard" and instead, the listener is treated to gentle, soft-focus synths unfolding and unravelling slowly, like rain drizzling its way down a window on a grey morning. Against this backdrop, Polar Inertia's "Sonic Outlaws" sounds out of place, but its pulsing, tunnelling groove seeks to seduce the listener rather than hammer them into submission.
With a booming release on Ann Aimee earlier this year, Yan Cook has proved he knows how to make sleek but industrial-strength techno. Here for Dynamic Reflection he pulls out more of the same with three cavernous club tracks of no-nonsense 4/4 energy. No prizes for guessing why the title-track is called "Melter", a production which Knotweed founder Phillipe Petit strips back in his remix, while on the flipside "Bell" is only drums and metallic percussion (or bells), leaving a hi-energy "Chaser" to suitably finish things off.
If you've been keeping abreast of all things Minimal Wave this year, you'll probably have picked up on Veronica Vasicka hinting at a forthcoming split release from Silent Servant and Broken English Club, the new project from UK techno man Oliver Ho. We've certainly been eagerly awaiting it her at Juno HQ and it's great to see Violence And Divinity live up to and surpass these expectations! Silent Servant mans the A Side with two tracks that will be familiar to anyone that's been lucky enough to catch his live sets of late, indeed it's almost too easy to visualise the flashing strobes as the pummelling EBM lines of "Cut Unconscious" unravel and beat you down. The two accompanying productions from Ho's Broken English Club dovetail nicely, but veer off into more wave orientated territory, with "Divinity" sounding quite like some of the earlier material put out by In Aeternam Vale. In a word, superb.
With releases on Mathematics and 100% Silk to his name already, San Franciscan producer Roche (AKA Ben Winans) has enjoyed an impressive start to his career. Here he continues his rise with a two-track salvo for hometown label Icee Hot. "Depths" layers fluid, Detroit-influenced synths and a humid bassline over tough but tactile drum machine rhythms. While robust, it has echoes of the new age-influenced positivity of the Mood Hut and Future Times labels. "Seers" is an altogether faster and more energetic affair, with alien synths and a pulsating bassline riding a locked-in 4/4 techno groove (think relentless handclaps, ride cymbals and crunchy snares). It, too, boasts melodies that seem to flutter in the Bay Area breeze.
Dualit only have the one release to their name and that was a self-titled debut on the Earwiggle label last year. It seems Fifth Wall is a fan of the Irish hard techno imprint, inviting the duo to the label with this solid five-track missive. Fifth Wall employ DJ Ford Foster and POI to tackle "Rant"; POI's mix is heavy and worn down while Foster's is straight-up club music made to sweat to. As for the originals, again, it's "Rant" which is a standout, while "Stirm" is linear and bleepy and "Metis" is disjointed Detroit-styled techno to the max.
California-raised Johannes Auvinen made his name blending hypnotic techno with the distinctive electronics of acid house. His most recent album, 2012's Neo Neo Acid, moved further towards the sounds of Phuture. Ode, his seventh full-length, sits somewhere in between, delivering a sequence of deep, hypnotic grooves that utilise acid lines not to create energy, but as melodic hooks. With the addition of his own half-whispered vocals on a number of cuts, the result is an atmospheric set that feels like the soundtrack to a hazy after party. For the most part, it's very impressive, and has a genuinely weary, late night mood that's strangely attractive.
Haunted Air is a new label to surface this year and so far it's released music from Oregon pairing Asss while also debuting a new Willie Burns alias called Phobian. Expanding their operation to include albums, Haunted Air's first full length release comes from Violet Poison, the recently revealed solo project of Francesco Baudazzi, aka Obtane. It's the Italian's third LP in two years, and second for 2014 following his cassette release, Sovrastrutture, on Opal Tapes. Don't expect walls of noise here though as Violet Poison opts for something more liquid-sounding than what he's put out before, but be prepared for a fair dose of brooding, and at times nauseating, pummels of sound design - and rolling Regis-style techno.
The two Ekoplekz albums that Nick Edwards released through Planet Mu this year are possibly the most accessible long players issued by the Bristol-based artist in a rich, prolific production career. Pitching up on the West Norwood Cassette Library label is hardly the most expected of moves for an artist more commonly associated with Mego, Further and Mordant Music, but fans of those aforementioned Mu LPs will certainly find much to enjoy in this Rock La Bibliotek EP. The label claims Edwards has long been promising them some club focused material and these 6 tracks are the results, still retaining the sense of abstraction and daring freeform approach that has made Ekoplekz the powerful voice he is. File alongside Container and Hieroglyphic Being in the lurching, slightly foreboding end of the techno scale.
Not much is known about Ueno Masaaki other than he's a Japanese artist that's debuting on Raster-Noton with a burgeoning new sound. It's a cutting edge sound that fits in perfectly with demeanour of Raster-Noton and all tracks on Vortices sound like dry, micro-loop reductions of Aoki Takamasa's music. Masaaki's inclusion to the label's Unun series follows previous releases by Mika Vainio and Emptyset - and if that's who label founder Byetone wishes to associate the Japanese artist with than we can expect great things in the future.
The work of Dutch producer Vincent Koreman, Drvg Cvltvre's Psychosis tracks for Shipwrec provides a fresh interpretation of the acid sound. You'd be hard pushed to find any Chicago references here - apart from Koremann and Chris Moss Acid's reshape of "Acid Flash" and even there the focus is on a pulsing, tunnelling groove. The real highlights though are "I'll Wear Your Face On A Chain", a linear jam that turns shades of psychedelic red as a pitch-bent vocal warbles away indistinctly, and "Drown Into The Eternal Twilight". Taking inspiration from Holland's squat party scene, the beats are stomping and distorted, pushing the suffering 303s into a vomit-stained basement.