Despite their impenetrable name and previous releases, SHXCXCHCXSH's second album is strangely accessible. Not in a Katy Perry let's all hum along kind of way, but more due to the fact that it doesn't assault the listener with the concrete weight beats that other SHXCXCHCXSH releases are known for. It seems that the Swedish duo has learnt the value of subtlety, but without losing their edge. From the eerie ambience of "Entering The S-Cloud" through the distorted, noisy electro of "Elo-cution", the atmospheric techno sounds of "The Roots" and the snapping percussion and repetitive machine riffs of "Drain the Lord", Linear S Decoded is one of 2014's best techno albums.
Jeff Derringer made the decision to only release music when he felt he was fully prepared to do so and it seems to have paid off. "Panic" is a big room techno track, but in the best possible way. Based on a relentless, pulsing bass all the other elements, including the insistent percussion and pounding drums, are channeled through it. "Panic Attack" provides the flip side approach; while it is also centred on a rolling rhythm, it features chiming synth lines and spacey synths washing over the groove. Given the power that underpins "Panic" it is fitting that Soma has drafted in Mike Parker to remix it and he enlivens his version with a sea of hissing, swampy bass.
Tiga's label delves deep into Canada's underground scene to kickstart this new series. First up is Visionquest associate Clarian with "Inuit". Over clanging metallic beats its bass soars and groans as eerie textures map out an unusual direction, a middle ground between the organic and the futuristic. Hreno's "Tree Trunks" is also based on steely elements - this time it's a metallic rhythm - underpinning a vocal that repeats 'my soul' insistently. Von Party's "Pygmy Funk" is more conventional, with clicking percussion and tripped out chords surging to the fore, while by the time you get to Mike Mind's "Caveman", the release has veered into a stepping, pulsing bass sound.
Leipzig native Stefanik rose to recognition during the minimal boom, but it sounds like he has long since departed from that scene. The German producer's latest release on Cocoon pushes in other directions; on the title track, Stefanik uses a nagging bass to underpin synths that shift in mood from deep and doleful to scarily atmospheric. The flip side track, 'Illumination', is even more hard-hitting. Percussive bullets fly in and tough kicks that have more in common with Magnetic North than Minimal Man ensure that it never operates at anything less intense than fist-pumping level. It's quite a transformation.
Given how prolific he's been across multiple aliases these past few years, you can forgive Boris Bunnik for the lack of output that's characterised his year so far, with just the sole Versalife 12" for Clone's Store Only Series issued. A return to his main creative concern Conforce is most welcome then and the Depth Over Distance EP suggests the Dutchman's production powers are fully recharged. Opening with the title track, Conforce's talent for captivating spacious lines and crisp refreshing drum programming is on full display whilst "Plateau" veers off into abstract territory. Powered by supple arpeggios and powerful kicks, "Rendez-vous" feels like Conforce at his most floor focused whilst "Closer" ends proceedings on a haunting, ambient note.
The hotly tipped Golden Pudel resident Helena Hauff joins forces with Andreas Gehm for a release on The Exaltics label. Unlike much of the output on Solar One, this four-tracker ignores electro in favour of a more malevolent sound. "Rupture" sets the tone for what is to come, its grainy beats and heavy claps marking out the relentless rhythm track approach that both artists have decided on. However, by the next track, "The Purely Painful Confrontation Of Opposites" it becomes clear that the duo want to fry their audience's brains with the most aggressive 303s since DJ Skull. "HKX" is just as punishing and "Solar Two" ends the split release with malevolent, pounding acid-fuelled beats.
This young producer has only put out three releases so far, but he is already developing a distinctive identity. Merging found sounds, subtle abstractions and detuned offbeat trance melodies, his latest release sees him bring this bizarre but engaging approach a few steps further. "A Night Out With Therese" is typical of Stamm's sound, fusing tough stomping beats with a resonating, bleep bass and dramatic drops and effects. The title track is even more unusual in that it combines screeching background noises with banging beats and frosty trance melodies. On a different tack is "That Kid From Newport"; while it too is banging and full on, is covered in an acrid acidic veil.
Map.ache is a new artist, but this release sounds like he was immersed in the deeper end of the '90s house and techno scene. "The Yonder" is a breathless, jazzy groove, its snapping percussion and gloriously hypnotic synths making for a beautiful house track. "Dunno" is darker and more droning, with a cavernous bass providing the basis for resonating soundscapes. Rounding off this hugely impressive release is "Nihilistic Vacation". Over a warehouse-style jack track, Map.ache weaves in 303 builds and drops that recall a time when it was not unusual to hear three distinctly different tracks over the space of one record.
To celebrate 20 years in the business, Austrian label Pomelo is putting out two split releases this year. The first features two tracks from the label's regular artists. DJ Glow's "Genetic Modification" is a buzzing, clanging electro workout, its sawtooth bass and rigid drums making for an ideal combination. Patrick Pulsinger and Irl's "Wasted at Work" is at the opposite end of the scale, a deep and murky rhythmic affair that lurches drunkenly like a fishmonger's wife on payday at the docks. The other two contributions, from Astray and Buffered Multiple, are stomping but abstract and this diversity and bal-ance of experimentation and dance floor power has underpinned Pomelo for the past 20 years.
Russian producer Alexander Matlahov has put out an impressive series of records over the past few years, even getting his work remixed by Steffi and Bleak. These tracks go some way to explaining why he has done so well. "Rhythm Slave" is the more functional dance floor track, based on insistent pulses and supported by bruising drums. There is some reference to Unbalance's musical back-ground via breezy synths and some entertaining whistles, but that part of the release is best covered by "Deep Journey". While the drums are tough and steely and acid lines pulses away mercilessly, it's the shimmering synths at the heart of the arrangement that really impress.
Having previously impressed with vivid blends of cosmic R&B, skewed space-pop, glistening post-ambient soundscapes and mangled, synth-laden grime, rising star Throwing Shade (AKA producer Nabihan Iqbal) demonstrates her dancefloor side with a killer single on Happy Skull. "Chancer" and "Blanx" both retain Iqbal's uniquely intergalactic aesthetic,whilst flitting between jacking, Chicago-influenced house rhythms and jazzy, off-kilter dancefloor grooves. Synths sparkle, while vocal snippets drift in and out of the mix. The single is completed by a riotous, predictably heavyweight remix from Kowton, whose guttural techno grooves are peppered with cut-up samples of Iqbal's distinctive, dreamy vocals.
Yes! Styles Upon Styles step it up and drop their very first album length project and do so in their own inimitable style with this conceptual long player from the superb (and superbly named) Gut Nose. The NYC label have swiftly built a rep for introducing the unheralded or the lesser known (Clay Wilson, Certain Creatures, White Visitation and Kloke) and it's great to see them maintain that approach with Filthy City. Aside from one cassette release and a prior SUS 12", there is little to form an opinion on Gut Nose out there, and that works in his favour on this album. The traditional LP format has been thrown out completely in favour of two extended pieces made up of movements with the A-side, sub-titled Filthy City, a dizzying array of paranoid stuttering instrumental beats reminiscent to the late '90s work of El P and Cannibal Ox. Gut Nose flips it completely with the B-side's Filthnoid Mixx which ups the tempo markedly to a queasy fairground ride through a nightmarish techno landscape. You won't hear another LP like Filthy City this year.