Review: With 20 years spent releasing, distributing and representing techno and electro's finest producers, it's fair to say that ePM is a true champion of the underground. That commitment comes into sharp focus on EPM20, which brings together music from all of the Eps that the label released over the past year. The listener is really spoilt for choice: Regis delivers the beautifully ghostly techno of "Beyond The Reach Of Time Pt 1", while Robert Hood keeps the mood mysterious on the aptly named "Shadows". While the compilation spotlights prominent producers, it also showcases artists who sometimes fly under the radar - on this occasion, it's Paul Mac with the drum-heavy "Nothing Remains" and Carl Finlow's nocturnal electro on "Optogenetic". The fact that it's dedicated to the sadly departed Tim Baker is also a lovely touch.
Review: The latest release on Blueprint marks two milestones in its journey. This EP sees label owner James Ruskin team up with DVS1 to celebrate its twenty fifth anniversary, but this collaboration started five years ago when the opening track, "Page 1" was first released. Deeper and more atmospheric than typical Ruskin material, its loping groove and cavernous effects made it one of the most popular tracks when Blueprint marked its twentieth birthday. Of course, the pair make up for this esoteric approach with the bee-sting loops and airy synths of "Page 3" and the stripped back, steely rhythm of "Page 2", which unravels to the sound of noisy tones. "Page 4" completes the release with staccato drums providing the backdrop for swirling, eerie synths.
Review: The ePM agency, label and distributor celebrates 20 years with a series of split EPs focused on techno, electro and house. First up is the techno release, with ePM attracting a stellar line-up to contribute. Robert Hood drops the eerie "Shadows", where menacing organs and steely percussion come together for a mesmerising slice of minimal techno. Ben Sims conjures up dense, tribal drums, interspersed with haunting wind chimes on "Xotnuc", while James Ruskin delivers the tough, steely rhythm of "There Was A Time". Remaining at the tougher end of the spectrum, the always consistent Mark Broom brings this part of ePM's celebrations to a close with the cavernous, pounding groove of "The Three Swords".
Review: British techno veteran James Ruskin resurfaces on his esteemed Blueprint label, for a series of executions in direct impact techno. As fierce and as functional as you'd surely expect, the three cuts on his latest Shortcut EP feature all the hallmarks of his idiosyncratic sound. Starting with the slow burning title track: an off-kilter expression in greyscale futurism with a seething atmosphere throughout. Picking up the pace next is the rolling, bass-driven stepper "Hang Up" which will captivate you with its intricate rhythm programming, and ending with the chilling and dystopic ambient journey of "Drums Eyes".
Review: 2020 looks set to be a busy year for James Ruskin; already he is about to deliver an artist album with Mark Broom as The Fear Ratio for Skam, while also preparing to release Consumer Patterns, his first solo EP in five years. The title track is a pile-driving affair: led by rolling snares and visceral, noisy riffs, it unfolds to a frenetic tempo. "Social Acceptance" sees the Blueprint boss head in a more hypnotic direction with frazzled synths looped to infinity. In contrast, on "Weakness of the System", Ruskin heads down an esoteric route, with dreamy synths underpinned by an abstract, glitchy backing.
Review: It certainly piques anyone's interest when British techno legend James Ruskin releases new material. With an immaculately curated output over the last 20 years, this new addition to an extensive catalogue of works - on established institution Tresor no less - is testament to such. The Siklikal EP demonstrates four careful executions in pure form techno by a true veteran who knows what works on the dancefloor. From the broken body bashing industrial menace of "Nepte", to the hypnotic tunnel vision of "Kn Te 3" and the seething downbeat EBM mutation of "Kn Am 3" - what a way for Tresor to celebrate 25 years in the business with this fine release.
Review: Reality is James Ruskin's first solo Ep in a number of years. The Blueprint owner's absence has left techno a poorer place, but as Reality.. shows, he hasn't lost his magic touch. The title track is a streamlined, linear affair that showcases his ability to craft functional but distinctive dance floor tracks. Similarly on "We Are Everywhere", Ruskin carves out a firing techno track that progresses through visceral builds as it peaks and drops. He leaves the best till last: "'Disaffection", with its grimy acid lines and tight rhythm, sounds like the kind of track that you would expect to find on a vintage Lost Recordings release.
Review: Over the past few years, Blueprint has opened up its sound to experimental artists like Lakker. This is to be welcomed, but as its owner's latest release shows, the London label is still focused on underground techno. Conspiracy is a re-mastered, reissued release from 2002, and its centre piece is the harsh, abrasive percussion and meaty bass of "After Dark". The dark ambience of "Fader" shows that Ruskin has always had an ear for the abstract, but it's an exception here. "Take Control" revolves around surging percussion and breeze block weight broken beats, while proving that Blueprint is very much a techno label, this reissue also includes an intense, broken beat take on "Take Control" by Surgeon.
Review: To mark the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of his label, James Ruskin has put together this massive compilation. It includes long-term friends and associates of the label - like Oliver Ho, Regis and Luke Slater - as well as newer additions to the roster, including Lakker and Rommek. Apart from uniting artists from different generations, the compilation also showcases the label's various hues; from the broken beats and intricate rhythms of Ruskin and Regis' O/V/R project and the hypnotic soundscapes of Lakker's "Orange" to the trace stabs and 10 tonne kicks of Regis' "Party Spoiler Too" and the chaotic industrial rhythms on Truss' "Wanastow", this compilation offers to newcomers an invaluable introduction to Blueprint, or to long-standing fans an indispensable reminder of why the label is unique.
Review: Woof! If you are looking for a massive slab of techno, you won't find anything as hefty as Aphelion. A package of tracks from Belgian label Token, Aphelion is essentially a primer for the best in contemporary techno, featuring contributions from Surgeon, Rodhad, James Ruskin, Karenn and Planetary Assault System alongside some label regulars. You will have probably already heard "Fixed Action Pattern" from Surgeon - it's possibly one of this year's finest techno tracks - but it's got some stiff competition here with Ruskin in particularly funked up form on "No Trace". Aphelion is a real statement and proof of Token's current rank as a European techno powerhouse alongside the likes of Delsin and Ostgut Ton.
Review: Once in a while James Ruskin reveals just how diverse a producer he can be, and so it is on this new Blueprint release with its crisp electronica undertones striking a chord with the recent Function / Inland release. The title track especially balances deft, broken rhythms with bold, brassy sweeps of synth, keeping a primal analogue feel to the production and sounding not dissimilar to early Autechre. "Shallow Pool" is even further out in leftfield with its languid guitar tones and distant piston-pumping beat, while "Dependant Stage" comes over all electro as though suspended in mid-air.
Review: James Ruskin has of course individually collaborated with Mark Broom, as well forming The Fear Ratio project for Blueprint, and he's worked with Regis as O/V/R, but a solo record from the boss on his own label hasn't been heard since 2009. Throughout the Silt EP, sounds from these collaborations creep in and out of the three productions, while the title-track sounds like something that would fit right into a [Phase] EP. There's a definite Warp, albeit Lakker and The Fear Ratio sonic to the melancholic "Wisdom Of Youth", while the murky slither of "Emotional Erode" is the EP's unexpected, ambient, and rhythmic dub-leaning highlight.
Review: James Ruskin and Mark Broom are known as doyens of UK techno, but a closer look at their catalogues suggests that there is a less well-documented side to their work. Ruskin's last album for Tresor skirted around the edges of IDM and abstract electronics, while Broom was responsible for the excellent downbeat project, Midnight Funk Association. Light Box however is the first time that they have given full vent to their love of techno's abstract side. Drawing heavily on the intelligent techno sound of Warp's 90s catalogue, on "Pinhead" the heavy, recoiling bass and foreboding synths are reminiscent of LFO or Nightmares on Wax in bleep techno mode. "Antirac" recalls a more austere sound from this period, its icy synth lines and distended, fractured rhythms coming across like an update of Amber-era Autechre. That's not to suggest that Broom and Ruskin are engaged in revisiting old glories. "Bronik" is a wild combination of glitchy percussion and oppressive jungle sub-bass, while "Mas" integrates swirling synths with house beats and thundering claps for the only straight dance floor track on Box. Meanwhile, "Guv 3" and "The Quick & The Dead" re-imagine the sensuous electronic melodies of vintage Plaid and Black Dog in a contemporary setting, against a backdrop of splurging basslines and stepping rhythms, and "Morning Blues" provides the album highlight, its rumbling, Shed-like break beats wrapped around a melody line that recalls a more wide-eyed time.
Review: Given that two of UK techno's most experienced techno producers feature on "Night Nurse" you could be forgiven for thinking that it might turn into a lesson in dance floor intensity. However, while "Pigeon" is based on a solidly jacking rhythm augmented by firing hats and insistent, stabbing riffs, that only tells half the story. Midway through, it veers into a Chain Reaction-style chord sequence that subsequently morphs into a dreamy outro. It's the musical elements that Norman Nodge's remix centres on - the stomping backing helps too - while the title track isn't all sturm und drang either, its broken beats providing the basis for chilling strings and mysterious pads.