Steven de Peven is Amsterdamer Awanto 3, a staple of local imprints Rush Hour and Dekmantel since 2010 (not to mention moonlighting as Red Nose District) who presents his new LP Gargamel, This is his second full length since 2014's Opel Mantra. Starting off this great EP is the single "Azrael" which features usual studio partner Darling on this deep nu-disco cut, as does the booming and lo-slung bass exercise "Hooli Goose". Our personal highlights were the spooky, rusty and dusted down jack of "This Is When We Met" (which will really remind you of that notorious villain from the Smurfs that the album is named after) or the deep and minimal electro groove of "Thick" which features another local legend in the form of Klakson's inimitable Dexter. Awanto 3 likes his samples vibrant, his drums wobbly and his synths sweaty as a Detroit summer breeze. The MPC wizard returns!
When it comes to no-nonsense, heads-down techno, few labels can match Bek Audio. While it has released material by Chicago legends DJ Rush and Lester Fitzpatrick, as well as Mark Broom and Slam, for its 30th release its owner, Gary Beck is back in the saddle. The title track is an unstoppable juggernaut that comprises a driving funk-bass, disco loops and sassy vocal samples. "Shadow Bounce" is more typical Beck, with a hammering central rhythm undercutting a noisy riff and a choppy vocal stab. "Bicycle Wheel" sees the Scottish producer deliver a lighter, party techno looper, while expect the catchy vocals and loopy funk of "Fantasy Stomp" to compete with "Famoo Funk" for attention.
Spanish producer Valentin Corujo knows how to get a groove on. On his latest release as Kessell - this time on Developer's label - he drops five killer dance floor tracks, each one as functional as the next. The first "Ecliptica" revolves around the kind of nocturnal bass that sounds inspired by Suburban Knight, while the second one is metallic and stripped back, but undercut with an acidic flavour. Number three is tough and pushing towards the edge of distortion thanks to its grainy kicks and noisy filters, while on the fourth version is slightly more reserved and sees Corujo draw on the spacey end of Sandwell District for inspiration. Closing the release is the fifth instalment, a rolling, hypnotic track that draws on loop techno's legacy but deploys these sensibilities in a visceral setting.
Ambivalent makes a strong statement with Drag. No longer involved with mnml, the US producer delivers a combination of tough kicks, shuffling drums and a series of tonal bleeps and blips on the title track that could pass for Hardfloor at their most brutal. "Buck" follows in a similar vein, with bursts of crunchy percussion and relentless chord stabs underpinned by rough kick drums. Amotik's take on "Drag" sees the mysterious producer ratchet up the tempo while dropping icy chord stabs, but label owner Dustin Zahn steals the remixer show. The Enemy boss' take on "Drag" resounds to tough break beats and a clanging bass that sounds like someone throwing a load of metal bars down a concrete stair case.
On the back of Kompakt's expansive retrospective of his work under the Gas alias, the essential Box, Wolfgang Voigt has decided to deliver a new album - his first for 17 years. Predictably, Narkopop is as cinematic, widescreen and densely layered as anything the German ambient producer has done to date. Over 11 spellbinding tracks, Voigt blends field recordings and droning electronics with sweeping, almost orchestral movements, swirling melodic cycles, and occasional forays into rhythmic hypnotism. The result is a collection of "wall of sound" ambient compositions that does a terrific job tiptoeing the fine lines between both grandiosity and intimacy, and joy and pain. In a word: essential.
This release is the second in a series of ten records that Dutch label and festival promoters extraordinaire Dekmantel has planned for 2017 to celebrate its first decade in business. Call Super's "Fluenka Spoke" is an understated affair; over a stripped back, clicky groove, the UK producer adds in whirrs and ticks, birdsong and tropical effects. It makes for a heady affair. On the flipside, Dekmantel have tapped Shanti Celeste and her contribution, "Hinoki", doesn't disappoint. Over a rolling, rickety rhythm, she adds in beautiful, billowing chords and breathy vocal samples - an intoxicating vision of Detroit techno, routed through Bristol and interpreted in great style.
After making occasional appearances on compilation style EPs, deep house artist Demuja - AKA Salzburg-based producer Bernhard Weiss - finally made his solo vinyl debut last month. Here he delivers a speedy follow-up on Austrian imprint RTCT. There's naturally much to admire throughout, from the drowsy chords, classic vocal samples and punchy drum machine hits of "Feel Like Me", to the driving, Detroit techno influenced, acid-laden stomp of "16 Volt". Urulu is on hand to provide a tasty remix of the latter track, toning down the techno influences in favour of a locked-in deep house groove, darting synth stabs and sparkling electronics.
DJ Semtek's Don't Be Afraid Returns with more soulful Detroit inspired techno courtesy of one Jayson Wynters from Birmingham. Starting off with the emotive and classic hi-tech soul sounds of "Technological Enslavement" which gets a seething and bass heavy remix by Bristol favoutite Kowton, "Double Standards" has an evocative element abut it similar to early Carl Craig and the EP finishes in fine form on the deep and sublime "Sonic Boxing" with its layers of rich pads, dark strings and stylish sense of restraint.
DJ duo Audiojack return to their Gruuv label with a killer house release. The title track is a classic deep affair; based on a wiry but driving rhythm and rasping percussion, it features sensuous melodies and a ponderous, seductive female vocal. "On The Road" is closer in sound to classic 20/20 Vision, with the pair deploying a detuned riff and an organ sequence over a tough, driving rhythm. Reset Robot turns "Senses" into a deep techno track, with chiming chords and a linear groove underpinning the original version's vocal sample, while on the Dubspeeka version of the same track, a more understated, stripped back approach prevails.
Trus'Me has always been a big fan of other artists remixing his work, and now tracks from his last album now come under the techno spotlight. Answer Code Request is charged with re-working "Our Future". The Berlin producer delivers two versions; the first is a captivating break beat workout, led to a climax by eerie synths and a searing bass. On the second version, he covers the same kind of ground, but this time uses a ponderous vocal and dark piano keys. Ben Sims' version of "Ring Round Heart" is more dance floor focused, as a cacophony of siren bleeps, splintered percussion and acidic lines unravel over a hammering rhythm. Finally, Pangaea's take on "The Unexplained" features chiming church bells juxtaposed with a queasy, slithery bass
Over the past few years, Shlomi Aber has successfully integrated dub techno influences with tougher dance floor rhythms - and this approach reaches its creative apex on Panix. The title track is a hypnotic, linear groove that resounds to hissing percussion, thunder-claps and foreboding chord stabs (that are somewhat reminiscent of Dave Clarke's Red series). On "Camouflage", the Israeli producer pushes a similar approach; again the groove is throbbing and percussion hisses furiously, but doesn't reach the same intensity levels. Aber has drafted in Skudge to provide the remixes - their first take on "Panix" sees the Swedish pair focus on a ponderous vocal and eerie synth builds over steely hi-hats, while the second take sees them descend into a full-on, acid-soaked banger.
Sleeper is Mihail P's first release, and it would be hard to pick a more revered label to debut on. Established by Sub Club resident Dominic Capello in 2001, Seventh Sign has been home to Dan Curtin, Marcellus Pittman and Keith Tucker as well as one of the great house records of the past 20 years, Lil' Jazz' Sound of the City. Needless to say, Mihail P is in good company, but his own material is of the highest quality. "Theta Wave" is a sublime, slinky deep techno track, laden down with blips and bleeps, while on "Semblance" he goes slightly darker, as steely drums and a moody bass underpin those mysterious chords. Cappello turns in an early Ron Trent-style version of "Sonder" (the synths are very Altered States), while the Gnork take on "Semblance" is redolent of techno-soul producers like Derek Carr. It's a stellar, sublime release.
The consistently brilliant DJ Hell taps some top-class remixers to re-interpret "I Want U". First up is Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann, who adds some steely force to the original. Toughening up the kicks, laying down a linear rhythm and making the bass sound foreboding, he gives the original version a bleakly futuristic feel. Terrence Fixmer, a long-standing Hell ally, turns the track into a nihilistic ebm stomper, with a grainy bass and a dark, pulsing groove underpinning breathy samples. The last version comes from Romina Cohan. The Argentinean artist has also been a long-time Hell affiliate and like Fixmer, offers up a brutal vision, dictated by a bass so corrosive that only the accompanying tingling percussion can offset its ferocity.
Since debuting on Token five years ago, CTRLS has established himself as a distinctive voice in techno. Formerly a drum'n'bass artist, his ninth release for Kr!z' label refines the complex, rhythmic techno sound he has made his own. "The Shortest Path" kick starts the EP with a clanging, metallic groove, populated by shards of spiky percussion and set at a furious pace. "Rush Hour" is in a similar vein, but its beats are harder and grittier. As the release progresses, the Danish producer reveals a different side; "Crash" has an eerie, mysterious edge but is based on panel beating kicks, while "Highway" sees him explore a more conventional minimal sound. Add in two locked grooves and you've got another high-impact, CTRLS release.
Tiga teams up with Matthew Dear's Audion project for a third release. Supposedly inspired by life in 'rough times', this EP is a no-nonsense, gritty affair. "Stabbed in the Back" resounds to rough kicks, brittle percussion and the kind of nightmarish stabs that were common during hardcore's heyday. "Pink Bells" is not as visceral, but it resounds to a rolling, filtered groove, hypnotic, chiming bells that weave in and out of the arrangement and an occasional shrieking siren. "Non Stop" sees the pair drop the tempo (and intensity levels) to deliver a shaky, minimal house track, but even here their bleak vision of the world is audible in the detuned synth riff that echoes across its rickety drums.
Culled from Monkeytown's second album, Othona, as well as the preceding single, "The Walker" and "Kilter" get reshaped by two of electronic music's most respected emerging artists. First up is Miami's Danny Daze; his take on "The Walker" starts inauspiciously with ghostly electronic chants, but they are soon joined by a pulsing, acid-soaked bass that pushes the original track into a tripped out disco finale. Meanwhile, the German techno duo the Zenker Brothers get to rework "Killer". Grainy percussion drizzles over a steppy rhythm and billowing chords, while metallic drums knock out the clanging beat. With the addition of grandiose woodwind, it makes for an epic treatment
Having only just released an EP through Midgar, 2017 looks set to be a winning year for techno deviant Von Grall. The Semantica associate is up on Modularz this week, and from the tenebrous sounds of "Seeking Loyalty", it's clear that the producer is in absolutely no mood to stray outside of the techno framework. This is some pretty dark material. "Distinction" is another hefty roller of a tune, this time stripped-back to a hypnotic sequence of bleeps and airy pads while, "Next Form" bashes out a cacophonous flurry of electrifying tones, and "Obtain It" flutters its pulsating bass tones over a minimalistic array of 6am sonics. Nasty, unforgiving gear for the dancefloor.
The legendary Spaniard Juan Rico (Reeko) aka Architectural on Maceo Plex's Ellum Audio? We're just as perplexed (no pun intended) as you are! But if this is welcoming a sudden change of direction for the label, then we're all for it. Expanding on previous efforts, Rico further explores the dubbier shades of hypnotic techno once again for the Heaven Can Wait EP. "Dream Driver" opening proceedings in a droney and trance inducing fashion, with main room/pre-peak time adrenaline in mind. It's a more subdued, deeper and minimal affair on the rather lush atmospherics of "Hidden" while on the flip we've got "Surreal Restaurant"; which is most likely inspired by grabbing a doner kebap after a long hight of clubbing in the German capital and musically it's fully of icy, cavernous delay drenched aesthetics drifting off into nice trails of reverb.
It's early days for Jakob Panthel and his Faune alias, but he more than steps up to the plate as London label Ornate Music invite him to present his vision for immersive, techno tinged deep house. "5.34 AM" is aptly named, the undulating chord pulse at the heart of the track aiming for the woozy hour of the dance before dawn breaks through. "Reduit" is a more sprightly affair, using similar ingredients but pushing a brighter line in synths amidst the raw drums. "Grindewald" meanwhile heads out into more ambient techno territory with its plush pads and snaking arpeggios, soothing the feisty club-ready energy of the previous two tracks.
Of Norway have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Conaisseur and Loneliest Man is the pair's third album for the label. As usual, it combines the Norwegian pair's quirky humour with their wide ranging sound palette. Gentle ambient sound tracks like "The Soothing" and "Don't Break The Silence" sit next to the tight electro of "Separation Failure" and the acid-soaked disco of "Bootes Void". On the chilling synths of the John Carpenter meets Goblin "The Life & Death Of Italian Mantrance", Of Norway's ability to replicate distinct styles as well as their wry humour is most obvious, while the dreamy house of "Favourite Mistake", which features Linnea Dale on vocals, shows that they are not afraid of mainstream sounds. It's an accomplished, assured release.