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.
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: 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: 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: 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: London distributor, PR/DJ agency and all-round nice guys EPM celebrate 10 years in business with a compilation that features some of electronic music's most respected names. Italo veteran Alexander Robotnick delivers the tear-jerking melodies of "Running About", while Rob Hood, working as Floorplan, delivers the looped disco meets Chicago house jack of "Move It". There is austere techno courtesy of Mark Broom and James Ruskin on the restrained, bleepy minimal "Merz" and Sandwell District's dub meets chilling strings workout "Live in Berlin", while RadioNasty drops the woozy bass and elector breaks of "Radio 3". All these contributions display EPM's flawless underground credentials, while they may have a mainstream club hit on their hands in the shape of the shimmering strings, plaintive keys and Ibiza-friendly groove of Marius's "Jet Set".