Review: The Downwards label precede the intriguing release of a new album from multi disciplinarian Russell Haswell with this remix release brandishing wildly different reinterpretations of the Coventry based musician's work from William Bennett, Kevin Drumm and label boss Regis. Haswell and Downwards seem like a good fit given the former's long career of boundary pushing music across labels as varied as Editions Mego, Warp Records and Carlos Giffoni's No Fun Productions, while the latter have remained uncompromising in the direction of their release schedule. It's a rare occasion when you can identify a Regis remix as the most accessible contribution to a release, but that's certainly the case here, with the Downwards chief delivering a twitching, loopy techno workout of "Chua Rave," while Whitehouse founding member William Bennett - another former collaborator of Haswell's - has remixed "Harshing" which is quite aptly described by Downwards as a "stereo head f*cking, brain floss session". This is surpassed in the "skin crawling brutal sonics" stakes by the minute remix of the same track from the Chicago-based experimental musician Kevin Drumm.
Review: Now regarded as something of a doyen for the UK techno community, Karl O'Connor aka Regis is revered with something approaching religious fervor in some circles. And it's little wonder; his brutal yet inherently funky and artful strand of techno brought together the worlds on industrial and DIY punk with pummeling 4x4 machine music long before any one else. Between 1994 and 2000, he delivered a string of uncompromising techno records comparable to the early output of Dave Clarke and Jeff Mills, and here the Downwards imprint looks back on those halcyon days with the first volume of a Complete Recordings reissue. Certified fans won't bother reading this review - it's buy on sight material - but lovers of contemporary techno looking to trace the genre's diverse origins should look, listen and learn from one of the undisputed greats.
Review: The preceding volumes captured the artist as a young man, and this third instalment documents Karl O'Connor's development from harsh industrial techno into other forms of electronic music-making. That's not to say that 1999-2001 is devoid of O'Connor's punishing approach: "Execution Ground" is a frenetic, thundering groove and "Rites" sees a jack-knifing riff skids its way across a lunging tribal rhythm. The key difference between these tracks and past peak-time tracks is the use of a vocal sample on the former and the icy, atmospheric synths that offset the latter's grainy intensity. O'Connor's desire to bring something new to hard techno is also audible on "Baptism" and "Purification", where lunging, slamming rhythms underscore incessant vocal snippets - like a precursor to Sims-style loops. "Get On Your Knees" is further removed from Regis' original dense sound and has a more electronic groove, but even it cannot prepare for the eerie ambience of both versions of "Solution" - is that Charles Manson on the "Voice" version? - and the doomy, dead-paced beats of "Slave To The Inevitable".
Review: Conceived at a time when the first wave of US minimalism was making waves across Europe, 1997-1998 offers a uniquely British response. At this stage, Karl O'Connor had placed Regis firmly on the techno radar, and tracks like "Disease Through Affection", with its razor-sharp, jarring industrial riffs and the pile-driving kicks and scatter-gun percussion on "Necklace of Bites" offer a dense, maximal counterbalance to Rob Hood's visceral minimalism. But O'Connor was then as he is now a visionary, and the most telling aspect of this compilation is how much of it would set the agenda for techno as it evolved through the late 90s and early 00s. Mills's Purposemaker project gets all the credit for creating loop techno, but one listen to the stomping, grime-caked industrial techno of "Executive Handshake" and the oppressive riffs of "Body Unknown" and it's clear who drew up the blueprint.
Review: More unreleased heat from the Karl O'Connor vaults! DN51 features four tracks plucked from the recording sessions for O'Connor's Penetration album under the Regis moniker, released in 2001. Originally only available as dubplates, the material finally sees a full digital release, with four slabs of loop-driven, brutal machine funk. The granite hard kicks of "Fragment 1" threaten to dislodge the needle from the groove such is the ferocity with which they rattle; be sure to check the penetrating, tunnelling groove of "Fragment 4". A must for Regis completists and another fine release in what is becoming a pretty special year for O'Connor.
Review: Originally released between the tail end of the 90s and the start of the new millennium, the material on Necklace Of Bites shows why Regis is one of the pre-eminent forces in modern techno. Starting with the Jim Jones samples on "Solution (Voice)', with the chilling orchestral "Music" version of the same track, the compilation then veers into the streamlined, pounding "Wound Us" and the dense, tribal kinetics of "Executive Handshake". What's most remarkable about Regis' output from this period is how well it has aged: "Adolescence", with its momentous filters and breeze block kicks, makes the current wave of techno sound staid, while the shrieking samples and razor sharp rhythm of "Execution Ground" is as lethal as the day it was conceived.
Review: Well, we knew that this day had to come some time soon, but we didn't realise it was going to hit us this hard. Regis, real name Karl O'Connor, requires no introductions so we're not going to write one, but what we will say is that plenty of people round the Junodownload HQ have been awaiting for his debut LP from 1996 with a noticeable level of hysteria. Gymnastics, along with a few other key releases, single-handedly launched Regis onto the UK techno scene and helped him to redefine it after the days of hardcore and house. Aside from the fact that this gear sounds as fresh as it did over 20 years ago, every tune on this thing is a keeper; the likes of "Allies", "Translation", "Sand" have been imitated relentlessly by all the techno heads over the years and, if it weren't for this album or this man, the likes of Barghain would not exist in the same way. Nuff said. Essential.
Review: The don of Birmingham techno Karl O'Connor serves up some live rarities courtesy of retroverts Cititrax. Features recently uncovered recordings of a Regis performance in NYC on January 4th, 1997 at the famed Film Academy. His unmistakeable sound and influence is integral to the DNA of the techno sound, blatantly copied but never matched. Some classics from the Downwards catalogue are contained on this EP in all their austere fashion. "We Said No" "Translation" and "Careless Pedestrian" from his seminal 1996 LP Gymnastics being highlights. The original tapes were discovered by Evan Kreeger, studio work/transfers by James Ruskin in London and audio mastered by Veronica Vasicka in New York.
Review: Danny Tenaglia is a stone cold legend, but his profile has waned significantly over recent years. Given that it's 25 years since the release of his first production, this first contribution to the Balance series - is well timed. Pleasingly, it seems Tengalia still "has it it". Throughout the collection, the veteran NYC DJ maintains a fearsome energy level, mixing things up via a track list that spans chunky tech-house, darkroom tribal, heavily percussive fare (see Michel Cleis' dub of Basement Jaxx's "Mermaid of Salinas") and intelligent techno revivalism (Dax J's brilliant "Dreamscape" and Ho's "Deletion 3"). It is, of course, an impeccable selection, as you'd expect from a man with Tengalia's undoubted pedigree.
Review: Giving the vast and slightly daunting discography the Downwards label has built up since its foundation by Karl 'Regis' O'Connor and Peter 'Female' Sutton in 1993, it makes for little surprise that this 20th anniversary compilation does not opt for the traditional 'greatest hits' route. Of course that wouldn't be the Downwards way either, such is their mischievously contrary nature. Instead this nine-track compilation opts to slip in a few rare curios from the label's early years alongside a selection of tracks from its current roster. O'Connor naturally features heavily; there's an unreleased Substance remix of a track from his debut LP, a track recorded along with Sutton under the rarely used Mark Farmer alias and his more recent Concrete Fence project with Russell Haswell features too, getting a typically loopy Sleeparchive remix. For long term Downwards fanatics it will be the inclusion of tracks from Antonym and Fret (aka ex Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris) that will really excite - with the latter's "Untitled" sounding particularly ahead of it's time. Music from OAKE, Kerridge and newcomers Talker hints at Downwards future.
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.