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.
Sidling up to Civil Music for his latest salvo of muscular electro-techno, Jon Convex is showing no signs of going soft as his solo project continues to mature into a sizable back catalogue. "Losing Time" is a rough and tumble of leering bass notes and biting drums, but there's still space for a drawn out melancholic breakdown that swirls in a vat of pads before launching back into the guttural main groove. "TX" on the other hand comes on like a merry-go-round of chugging beats and delirious synth lines aimed squarely at twisting up the minds of all present when the clarion call rings out over a sizable system. Ore is on hand to deliver an industrial-tinged revision of the track, while dBridge drops some stellar Autonomic-style half-step sci-fi considerations on his own remix.
Here's a collaboration that uses both parties' talents to their fullest capabilties. Avery has an excellent album to his credit and has been responsible for bringing a new approach to 303-led music. On this version of "Reception", an acid line that redefines malevolence is centre stage, but its unforgiving bleakness has a lot to do with Perc's influence. The rhythm slams menacingly and a terrifying, filtered siren rises up through the arrangement, heralding the start of a conflict, while a deranged, screeching vocal only adds to the sense of madness. But none of these elements can compare to the most malicious acid line since Phuture first banged the box at the heart of the arrangement.
Last year, Shifted owned techno with numerous 12"s under a variety of aliases complementing his curatorial efforts at the head of Avian and of course Crossed Paths, his debut album for Mote Evolver. In turns spooky, bleak and hypnotic, full of dub techno attitude, post-minimal crackle and droning rhythms, it made quite an impression. This follow-up for Bed of Nails treads a similar path, flitting between droning soundscapes, unsettling grooves and intense, murky compositions. While there are tougher, dancefloor-centric workouts (see title track "Under A Single Banner", "Pulse Incomplete" and "Burning Tyres"), these come cloaked in a murky fog of clandestine atmospherics. It feels like the unheard soundtrack to a black and white documentary on urban decay, fronted by a paranoid insomniac. It is, then, both unsettling and quietly impressive.
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.
Already a favourite with many underground DJs, this release from Chris Finke's new moniker celebrates the sound and spirit of Chicago house on the title track. Thumping beats, doubled up claps, relentless snare rolls and a bass so heavy and grainy that it could loosen bowels involuntarily at twenty paces mark this out as a particulalrly lethal serving of retro-ghetto. Bodyjack isn't about dwelling in the future though, and "I Wanna Be" sees him delivering a stepping, swinging rhythm and dark techno chords that underpin the vocal claim that "I'm gonna be right there" - just as soon as Finke finishes rewiring garage and house music's circuits that is.
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.
Few deep house labels are quite as consistent as Germany's Room With A View. There's little in the way of following fads, either, just a desire to release high quality deep house from a range of established and little-known artists. This fourth label compilation more than proves our point. Across the 20 tracks, there's little ill-advised filler, just tracks full of seductive grooves and melodic positivity. Predictably, highlights are plentiful, from the hypnotic throb of Taron Trekka's "NennDas" and the joyous, piano-laden blast of Roberto Rodriguez's "Sixth Non Sense", to the spine-tingling soundscapes of Sahin Meyer's "Zulu Beer" and electrofunk-meets-piano house flex of Marlow's "Need U".
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.
The grey area between house, techno and bass gets even more blurred than usual on this release. "Wander 7" marries a menacing low end throb with swirling deep house keys to create a seductive hybrid. Meanwhile, "Roquentin's Release" pushes closer to techno thanks to its crushing drums, killer subs and icy synths. The Physical Therapy version of "Release" slows the tempo down and welcomes ghostly, flickering synths to the arrangement and makes the results more atmospheric. Finally, there's the Unklone take on "Anny". Favouring a straight dance floor approach, the dubby drums and mysterious melodies make for a groovy but slightly eerie take on house.
Kennedy has beaten a singular path over the past few years, fusing the gentle, wide-eyed melodies of early 90s 'intelligent techno' with his own particularly brittle and complex rhythms. Confusingly, there is only a brief glimpse of this approach on his latest release. "VHSK 1" features the UK producer's trademark broken beats and those sweeping synths, filtered to infinity against a hail of dessicated percussion. Elsewhere, Kennedy shows a different side to his musical personality; "Pithead" is a relentless dance floor cut, its bass booming and skipping hats propelling it forward. There's a similar vibe on "VHSK 2", but on this occasion, dank acid provides the main focus for Kennedy's relentless rhythms.
Dave Sumner's debut album as Function was one of this year's most anticipated and finest LPs. Atypically, this remix package sees the commissioned producers deliver versions that measure up to the original material. On the dance floor end, there's Rrose's punishing take on "Against The Wall", which starts with a hypnotic, linear rhythm that descends into distorted mayhem, while Recondite's version of "Incubation" marries dramatic filters and insistent bleeps to reach a climax. But when the remixers go as deep as the author, the results are truly fascinating. NSI's take on "Inter" is a sprawling, jazzed out interpretation of the original ambient track, while Vatican Shadow delivers an uncharacteristically melodic, acid-tinged version of "Psychic Warfare".
There's something pleasingly old-fashioned about the work of mysterious producer A Sagittariun. To date, the enigmatic artist has delivered a string of strong 12" singles that sit somewhere between classic Detroit techno, mid-'90s electronica (think Pete Namlook with a dancefloor pulse, or stargazing ambient house) and early U.S deep house. Dream Ritual, his first full-length, continues in a similar vein, offering the kind of stargazing melodies, wide-eyed atmospherics and tactile, synth-heavy rhythms that bristle with cosmic intent. There are some startling diversions from the formula, too, not least the rubbery slap bass, paranoid vocal samples and vintage drum machine hits of "The Age of Sin".
Greek mythology inspires Dadub's return to the EP format with this new three track release for regular stable Stroboscopic Artefacts. Ploughing a similar thematic path to Daniele Antezza and Giovanni Conti's debut album You Are Eternity, this new release looks to the ancient Greek goddess (of the harvest) Demeter for inspiration. "Kykeon", Dadub's four-way collaboration with Retina.it, is an EP highlight, making full usage of the handmade modular synth systems crafted by the Retina.it pairing of Nicola Buono and Lino Monaco. Complementing this, Dadub's "Mistresses March" is a near 12-minute foray through scraping textures and plummeting grooves made truly memorable by Dadub's well honed skill for sound design, whilst they also collaborate with Dromoscope artist Grun on the incandescent "Ergot Kernel".
Benny Rodrigues' (Alves Fortes Monteiro) Rod alias debuted on Klockworks in 2007 giving Ben Klock's label its seventh release. Following Etapp Kyle's debut on Klockworks earlier this year, Rod returns with the first creatively titled EP the label has released. Anindica (Klockworks 11) provides two productions, and the title track is in line with a zapping Detroit style of techno, and perhaps something you may hear played in a current Eddie 'Flashin'' Fowlkes DJ set, while the muscular, dub-tinged, European B-side of "Hux" is well a truly destined for some heavy Ben Klock rotation.
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".
Tommy Four Seven and James Kronier's project continues to attract the attention of some well-known remixers. Working as Atom TM, Uwe Schmidt gets to grips with "When Told" and transforms it into a glitchy rhythm that drifts in and out a droning fog before ending in a sublime, atmospheric ambient coda. The Kangding Ray version of "Diesel" is far more abrasive, with grungy, scuffled beats and a buckled rhythm making for a particularly rough take on warehouse techno. Last but by no means least is Ancient Methods' take on "Isopod". Eschewing AM's usual relentless take on techno, this remix is more off centre and stepping, but with the same grinding, screeching riffs as usual audible.
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.
It sounds like Milo Smee is on a one-man mission to turn inject some chaos back into techno, and his debut album as Bintus goes a long way to counteracting the prevailing air of furrowed brow seriousness. "Stellar Drain" kick starts the release with distorted kicks and a grainy acid line, while "Paracelcus Beat 2" is an even more abrasive take on this sound. "Cylinder Bop" sees Smee flirt with industrial sounds - not the mock-doominess we hear so often these days, but the grating sheet metal paranoia of Swans, set to a buzzing bassline. Finally, the off the wall "Basket Case" bring the release to a close with its razor-sharp percussive groove that speeds up and slows down inexplicably.