Detroit innovator Rob Hood is the latest name to release on Dekmantel. The Dutch label and party organisers have put out work by an impressive array of artists, but persuading the Minimal Nation author is a true masterstroke. Shift, which arrives in time for the festival season, starts with the eerie "Preface" before Hood launches into the abrasive, metallic rhythm of "Idea" and "I Am", a clap-heavy groove whose central riff just keeps on building and building. There are echoes of Hood's minimal past on the loopy "Solid Thought" and the wiry funk of "Nephesh", but Shift captures Hood in big room mode and is the spiritual heir to the locked-on, peak time techno of the Detroit producer's Omega long player.
It would be fair to say that Morgan Geist's Megaprojects series is an attempt to go "back to basics". Not only are the tracks created using - in his words - "cheap drum machines and vintage synths", but also pay tribute to some of his earliest inspirations. In practice, that means doffing a cap to fluid and ear-pleasing early deep house on the glistening "Manic Cinq", pitched-down Italo-disco and bass-heavy early British techno ("Fuzzy Detail") and tactile, breakbeat-driven late '80s house (the rather wonderful "Buy Freedom"). Arguably best of all, though, is closer "OCGC", whose psychedelic acid lines, tactile synth bass and cheery synth melodies make the track sound like a cross between vintage Metro Area and Orbital's "Halcyon".
Dutch party crew/ label Dekmantel has achieved more in the past decade than most labels, and that they are able to call on such a heavyweight line-up for the third installment of their celebratory series is evidence of this fact. The release starts with the steely drums and mournful, rainy day pianos of Levon Vincent's "UK Spring Vibes" - which is a rare contribution from the US artist outside of his Novel Sound label - and continues with the fist-punching acidic sweeps of Legowelt's "Blue Austral Techno". Shifting the focus back to the other side of the Atlantic, Joey Anderson weighs in with the spooky, swirling synths and understated "Opened Gate", while Danish artist Central rounds off the EP with the jazzy abstractions of "Six Five Two".
The debut release on Yan Cook's new label sees the Ukraine hotshot in flying form. The title track is a relentless, tunneling workout, hypnotic and banging at the same time. On "Grey Layers", he uses a similar approach, but drops the tempo. Bringing rasping percussion to the fore, the track resounds to insistent stabs. Then Cook delivers two unexpected tracks; "Falcon" is tough and banging, thanks to its razor-sharp percussio, but it appears to sample an old rave track. A further surprise is audible on "Twisted"; favouring a stepping rhythm, he fuses it with a clanging, grainy bass and reversed filters to create a highly distinctive track.
Big Miz left the cherished bosom of the Dixon Avenue Basement Jams crew to guest on friend Wheelman's new Stereotone label. Here he returns to DABJ with his second solo single. Title track "The Bomb" is something of a killer, with Miz lacing a bouncy, funk-fuelled drum machine rhythm with wild but jazzy synth lines, warehouse-friendly stabs and bleep style electronics. Elsewhere, "Sponk 900" is a breathless, ghetto-house inspired slammer, while "You Lose" is a raw and wonky fusion of noisy but funky electronics and thrusting machine drums. "Break The Law", a more hypnotic but no less guttural jack-track reminiscent of early 2000s Chicago tech-house, completes a fine package.
After a series of singles on Shifted's label, Shawn O'Sullivan delivers the debut 400PPM album. It's an angry, bleak affair. Even in its less visceral moments, like on the stepping metallic rhythm and Rose E Kross' muffled vocals on "New Expiration", or the dark, tranced out pulses of "Into The Heap", a gloomy sensibility hangs heavy in the air. "Sintered Bauxite" sees O'Sullivan add frazzled, droning bass to a similarly angular rhythmic workout, while "Bolling Oscillation" resounds to wild sub-sonic bleeps. For the most dance-floor friendly intense iteration of the 400PPM sound, look no further than the slamming, industrial techno of "Metabolic Grift".
Tom Ford aka Peverelist stays close to home for his third studio album. Tessellations appears on the Bristol producer's own Livity Sound label and is an assured, wide-ranging affair. It moves from the white noise of "Burning Sea" and the musical, brittle electro of "Under Clearing Skies", into big room, chord-heavy techno tracks like "Slice of Life". In the face of so many stylistic shifts, Ford still manages to maintain a common narrative, one of hypnotic musicality and intricate, complex rhythms. It is audible on the electro-tinged stepper "Further Inland", which is led by brittle drums and a warm bass, while on "Brinks & Limits", he lays down the kind of evocative synth soundtrack that is tailor made for long, hazy summer days.
TWR72's latest outing on Float shows why the duo has become synonymous with high-quality, forward thinking club techno. The title track is a linear, twitchy track that borrows from the minimal funk of French label Logistic. On "Erudite", the Dutch duo ups the tempo to deliver a tough, rolling groove, underpinned by rasping hats and featuring a lone bleep on repeat. "Colloquial" opts for a different approach again; the rhythm is more electronic and bleepy, as hi hats and snares roll in together with great intensity. "Aporia" rounds off the release - a dynamic, bass-led workout, it sees mysterious synths swirl over the futuristic arrangement
3KZ is a collaboration between Z.I.P.P.O and Kalean, a partnership which already this year has yielded the Parallel Reflections album. Now the pair makes an impressive debut on Darko Esser's label. The title track is a powerful purist techno affair, featuring steely percussion and rhythms, coupled with dramatic synth sweeps. "Nature of Motion" is deeper and more musical, with warm keys unraveling against a gurgling groove. On "Circles", the pair flex their dance floor muscle, as an insistent, driving arrangement is combined with eerie synth loops, while "Times" concludes this club EP with a rolling, atmospheric groove that has echoes of classic Vince Watson.
After Sulk Magic's auspicious debut release, the label returns for its second chapter of left field cuts. Bird of Paradise curates this one with a similar mind-set to the former; a strong natured collection of tracks which all portray a consciousness of marked ingenuity and a desire to defer from the regular dance-music-model. Berlin's Thomas Freudenthal kicks off the record with a portion of hypnotising middle eastern flavoured chug, leading into Kieran Holden's slow-burning, melodic anthem, '3 or 4'. Then Clandestino take the reins with "Sympatico", a debauched new beat tinged mover. In:state's "Spacer" brings the compilation to a climax, a quick pulse, chugging arpeggios and just a little bit of sun-kissed positivity. DaWad & Mokic end the collection in a slower yet utterly driving fashion, with a left-field, brilliantly synth-laden record driven on by its moody melodies.
Located in a forest outside Jena, Muna is one of the longest-established clubs in Germany, and is approaching a quarter of a century in business. Its label arm is much younger, but is doing a fine job in representing the Muna sound to the wider house music community. Cassy's "Running" is a rolling, bass-heavy track, featuring melodramatic vocals and rasping percussion. By contrast, Andre Butano & Aldo Cadiz' "Consommer" is more full on, with doubled-up beats and a groovy, rolling rhythm supporting druggy vocals. Shifting styles again, David Mayer, the Keinemusik founder, delivers "Moonlock", a pulsating, electronic groove, while Alejandro Mosso closes out this soundtrack to one of Europe's most revered clubs with the quirky deep house of "Rayuela".
Make Time on Kowton's Idle Hands label arrives just in time for the summer. The title track is an evocative affair that will remind its audience of care-free nights and early mornings spent dancing beneath the stars in fields and on beaches. Celeste draws influence from hard-core's benign side as well as the blissed out house of flotation tank lovers The Beloved and skillfully and seamlessly weaves together tumbling break beats with watery samples and mournful piano lines with dreamy vocal utterances. "Thoughts" is slower and features teased out acid squiggles, but it's the title track that is sure to be played continuously over the coming months.
Guy Brewer aka Shifted set up Drifting Over as an outlet for his dance floor-focused work, and this is exactly what its second installment delivers. "Centipede" is reminiscent of Cosmic/Lost Tracks material at its most dense and opaque, as a repetitive stab is looped over a steely, stepping rhythm. "Gauze" is just as functional; it sees the UK producer drop a series of bleeps over kicks that seem to fall in on top of one another. "A Way Beyond" is less complex and more linear; over a straight groove, rolling snares, not too far removed from those of Richie Hawtin's Plastikman project, are key to keeping the momentum going.
No one does the big room sound like Alan Fitzpatrick and the UK producer showcases his expertise once again on You Got Me, the latest missive on his We Are The Brave label. The title track centres on his trademark lead-weight kicks, firing percussion and powerful thunder claps, but also resounds to a screeching diva vocal sample and rather unexpectedly boasts a rave riff-led break down. Soma duo Slam's take doesn't pull any punches either; focused on a linear, hammering rhythm and concrete kicks, it sees the veteran Scottish producers add a more malevolent riff, redolent of the Hoover excesses of Belgian techno, amid a seething acid line.
Music From Memory's Second Circle offshoot - an imprint designed to release fresh productions, rather than the reissues that the parent label is more famous for - reaches release number five, with Aussie audio explorer Tornado Wallace at the helm. He begins in typically atmospheric fashion with "Falling Sun", a lolloping, sunset-friendly cut that peppers a slack-tuned, tribal-influenced drum pattern with bubbly, eyes-closed melodies and spacey chords. His penchant for African-influenced drums is explored further on the dense but hazy "Singing Planet" and "Kakadu", where the bongo-heavy rhythms eventually come to the fore after a spellbinding, ambient introduction.
Rommek previously released on Sonntag Morgen and Weekend Circuit, and doesn't disappoint on this, his first release on James Ruskin's label. Combining atmospheric textures with robust broken beats and tough kicks throughout, on "Forbidden Planet", Rommek ventures into the kind of territory that the Blueprint boss himself normally inhabits. There, eerie bleeps unfold over mesmerising percussion and cavernous off beats. "Arcane" is even more utilitarian and sees the upcoming producer lay down a full on, hammering industrial workout, albeit with some atmospheric textures playing away in the background. "Archetype" is just as intense, but for different reasons; a muscular, predatory bass weaves and insinuates itself over a stepping rhythm and bleak soundscapes. Rounding off this impressive EP is the eerie, broken down "Doldrums".
Bas Mooy's label showcases more techno talent in the shape of Jokasti & Nek. Alex.. is the pair's debut release and it is a relentless, heavy affair "Ektroma" is a banging minimal techno number, peppered with intense bleeps, while the title track sees the pair going down an even harder route, led by concrete-weight kicks. "Bumrush", though not subtle by any stretch of the imagination, sees the pair opt for a stripped back groove, replete with a hiccupping vocal sample. However, it turns out to be just a temporary distraction. Straight afterwards they conjure up "Funk You", a hammering, relentless drum track populated by ominous bell chimes and distorted kicks, while the malevolent acid of "Bassball Bat" would give the Liberators a run for their money.
Like Nathan Fake and Dominik Eulberg, Cooper is a master of a particularly gentle, organic strain of trance. The UK producer's ability to craft beautiful, atmospheric tapestries is audible from the get-go here, with the title track showcasing jittery wind chimes and evocative melodies. The somewhat grandiose-titled "Coils Of Living Synthesis" sees Cooper up the tempo, but with a twist as glitchy, dissected rhythms provide the backing for windswept synths. There is a similarly dynamic at play on "Molten Landscapes", where he fuses swirling hooks with an offbeat, pulsing groove. "Four Tone Reflections" sees him, like many of his peers, integrate throbbing fuzzy guitar with a clubby groove, while Romanian in Berlin Cosmin TRG rounds off the release with a stepping techno take on "Chromos".
After completing a quadrilogy of Mecanica releases for ESP Institute inspired by "opium dens and whorehouses" earlier in 2015, Serbian artist Nenad Markovi brings his 33 10 3402 project to Music From Memory offshoot Second Circle. If you indulged in anyone of those Mecanica EPs for Andrew Hogge's label you will be all over this Bura EP with Markovic channelling similar depths of rhythm and texture across the four tracks. There's enough semblance of rhythm on display in cuts like the title track and the dubby machine funk of "Syg" to intrigue the more adventurous DJs out there whilst "P-Tok" could easily be mistaken for a forgotten Borft B side. A superb record.
P.E.A.R.L. is one half of Agony Forces, but in recent years, this side project has taken precedence. The Spanish producer now moves things up a gear with this debut long player; inspired by the Birmingham school of techno in both the title and the approach, it alternates between the relentless panel beating rhythm of "Impatience" and slower, gnarly jams like "Rules of Behavior". Irrespective of the tempo, Temptation is a bleakly intense affair, but there is also no doubting P.E.A.R.L's ability to craft killer techno. This is audible on the hard-edged percussive "Despair" or "Speculum", where the author drops the kind of acrid, gnarly groove that Regis is renowned for.