Review: Mark Broom and James Ruskin follow up their Lightbox album as The Fear Ratio with the Skana EP. The introduction of "Dirty Paws" sounds like something you would hear when trying to contact a passed loved one through radio static and white noise. A broken beat drum loop and swooping bass stabs break the confused silence which is later followed by air raid snares similarly heard in Plastikman's "Spastik". "Fedec" falls somewhere between Burial, Aphex Twin and early Scuba productions - replete with fuzzy electronics, moody melodies and over-driven kick drums. Like Stroboscopic Artefacts' Monad series the EP packs an ambient or beatless track and comes in "Kingdom of Ends", showcasing the duo's rarely heard penchant for non-dancefloor sound design. The only techno synonymic styled production is "Skana", a beautifully deep and pushy piece of melancholic techno.
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: 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: The techno-not-techno music of Samuel Kerridge has made its way to one of techno's most techno labels in Blueprint. Since it reintroduced itself in 2009, James Ruskin's operation has embraced the more experimental side of the genre in similar ways to Stroboscopic Artefacts without venturing as far away from the dancefloor. This release by Samuel Kerridge is the furthest Blueprint has travelled to date and over four tracks Kerridge rains down a thunderstorm of industrial and gothic mayhem that sounds like a power station being ravaged by lightening from the top and ripped apart by the underworld from the bottom.
Review: This release proves again that it's the producers operating at the fringes who often make the most rewarding techno. Lakker are Dublin duo Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell, who for years ploughed a furrow that was inspired by Warp and Rephlex and which resulted in releases that embraced noise, high speed break beats and electronica. So when Lakker decided to focus primarily on techno, they brought with them their previous musical experiences. Unsurprisingly, their debut vinyl for Berlin label Killekill won support from Surgeon and Aphex or that James Ruskin signed their second release to Blueprint. Lakker's past is audible on "Evening Lemon" as detuned, manic piano playing and the sound of kids in a playground bubbles to the surface of a glitchy offbeat backing track - only to give way to a beautiful, dreamy synth. What's more interesting is their application of their left of centre thinking to traditional techno structures. "ED" is powered by crunchy, off beats and shards of glitchy percussion but it's the ghostly, filtered synth that lead it from the outer limits to the realms of the dance floor. Likewise "BKRO" starts with echoing, dubbed out drums and kicks low in the mix, as Lakker let the ghostly textures and melodic undercurrents occupy centre stage. Indeed, if there is a recurrent theme on Arc, it's the use of texture and sound design as a means of seduction and nowhere is the recurrent theme on Arc and nowhere is this more evident than on the title track. There, a dense, lumbering nouveau techno backing provides the backdrop for eerie Aphex-style synths that linger in the background, gradually get closer and then eventually dominate the arrangement as the beats lose their intensity and the electronic melodies prevail, arcing upwards the sublime.
Review: The reason why Dublin-based duo Lakker has attracted a lot of attention is due to the fact that they sound genuinely different. As "Mustard Crying" demonstrates, they are unafraid of dropping a track consisting mainly of beats that sound like someone falling down a flight of stairs and loads of noisy feedback. "Ciar" is only slightly more palatable and revolves around a sludgy bass and walls of screeching noise. But Lakker also have a softer side and even thought they frame it against an itchy, scratchy minimal groove, "Summer Rains" has a fragile beauty to it, its eerie synths feeling like steam rising from the ground after a brief spell of rain on a hot day.
Review: Steve Bailey's Makaton project is most closely associated with the singular Rodz-Konez label, but over the years, he has also released the project's uncompromising music on Token and Blueprint. Sea, his second outing on James Ruskin's label, starts with the oppressive bass and strings of "Durdle Door", before sliding into the high octane rhythm and dense, metal-plated drums of "High Priestess". Despite shifting so quickly between these contrasting styles, Bailey then moves again to a more stepping techno sound on "Coast to Coast", which has defined his output for Token. The final track, "Through Fire & Water", has found a natural home on Blueprint, as its visceral minimalism is redolent of James Ruskin at his most austere.
Review: Having disappeared from view at the tail end of the noughties, veteran UK techno producer Makaton returned to action last year with the typically bombastic Ra Ra Replica EP on Token. Here, he continues his comeback by delivering a trio of tracks on James Ruskin and Richard Polson's similarly vintage Blueprint label. He begins with the creepy intensity of "Point Suspension", where crackling kick-drums and relentless cymbals combine with ragged, acid-influenced electronics to create a suitably psychedelic mood. Twisted, oddball electronics also form a key part of the slightly deeper and slower - if no less impressive - "Six Feet Under In Love", while "Cold Black Heart" is a quirky chunky of floor-friendly glitch-funk.
Review: With a title like All Kneel, Makaton is clearly having a laugh. That said, the UK producer, who usually releases on Token, isn't messing about when it comes to his music. "We Believe" revolves around a noisy, spiky rhythm and layer upon layer of textured synths. It's an abrasive affair, but the musical accompaniment ensures that it doesn't sound too visceral. On "Blood Purity", Makaton uses a similar structure, but this time around, the drums are cleaner-sounding, supported by a distorted acid line. "Reclamation" is a straighter track, led by a linear drum pattern and a surging, prowling bass, while on "There to Here (Noise)", Makaton's penchant for the unusual plays out in the form of what sounds like Henry Rollins taking about the hardcore (punk) scene against waves of white noise. Bizarre but brilliant.
Review: This is the first new O/V/R material in five years, but in the interim it sounds like not much has changed. Both Karl 'Regis' O'Connor and Blueprint owner James Ruskin continue to bring their distinctive techno sound to the collaboration. On the title track, this is articulated through O'Connor's grimy drums and dense sense of arranging, while Ruskin's fingerprints are all over "Everyday Impulse". Clearer and more defined than the title track, it mines Detroit minimalism to deliver a sharp, looped affair. "Excerpt In Dreams" sees both sensibilities come together as an acid-infested groove rides O'Connor's unmistakable dense drums.
Review: Blueprint's 20th anniversary celebrations wouldn't be complete without a new EP from British techno veteran Oliver Ho, who first appeared on the imprint way back in 1996. Opener "Burning Heretics" is a typically no-nonsense affair, with Ho effortlessly joining the dots between contemporary Surgeon, modern industrial techno, and the ragged intensity of purist acid house. "Worship" is deep, out-there, metallic and partially ambient, while "Control" is a near perfect exercise in bouncy acid techno. Finally, Ho presses the button marked "tribal" on the loose-limbed, broken techno brilliance of "Genuflect". As the old cliche goes, this is "all killer", with "no filler".
Review: He is best know these days for his ebm and wave-influenced work as Broken English Club, but Oliver Ho first rose to prominence as a heads-down techno producer during the 90s. This release, originally issued on Blueprint back in 1999, has been re-released as part of the label's twentieth anniversary celebrations. Despite the passage of time, these four tracks have not lost their raw energy. Furious bursts of percussion, insistent stabs and regular vocal chants, all underpinned by murderous kicks, ensure that Ho's sound has not aged. The fourth and final cut is the most abrasive, a jarring locked groove that makes modern-day purism sound tame by comparison.
Review: Blueprint Records kick off a sub-series dedicated to reissuing early material from the label's discography in fine fashion here, with the first transmission from the Outline project label boss James Ruskin was involved in alongside Richard Polson (RIP) presented for contemporary ears. Together as Outline, Ruskin and Polson launched Blueprint in 1996 with First Contact and the pair recorded a further four EPs together for the label in little over a year. A chance to bask in "fully re-mastered and substantially beefed up" takes on both tracks from First Contact should not be missed! Modern audiences looking for greater insight into the no holds barred techno of mid 90s London should pay attention here!
Review: London's Progression returns to Blueprint Limited with four high-powered slabs of machine noise, characterized most appropriately by the term 'techno'. This naughty, hand-stamped piece of wax is dark, foreboding and distinctly industrial in texture, where cuts such as "Omnipotent 3", "Obscuro" and "CH1" explore all of the genre's tricks and no nonsense sonics. The bleepy outlook of "The Coriolis Effect" is a particular highlight!
Review: Deployment is the debut release from mystery act R.A.S.P and it starts in explosive mode. "Deployed" revolves around a hammering rhythm, surging bass and rolling snares, while a strangled shriek that plays on repeat lends it a truly individualistic feeling. "Fortified" is a more controlled, but also features hollowed out drums and acrid 303s, while R.A.S.P takes it down a notch on "Insert Point". Deeper and more mysterious sounding than the first two tracks, it has the kind of atmospheric nuances that prevail on James Ruskin and Lakker's recent work for Blueprint. Closing the release is "Strong Hold", where R.A.S.P show that they are adept at working 303 elements into a Baby Ford-style minimal groove.
Review: London based producer Romek Boyer aka Rommek follows up releases on Weekend Circuit and Sonntag Morgen with a Berghain ready and absolute killer for James Ruskin's Blueprint. He wastes no time getting down to business on "Moth Hole", a pulverizing peak time monster with industrial strength groove, bleepy sonar aesthetics and massive menacing pads: sold yet? "Boiling Point" or "Solvent" are high octane peak time journeys in the vein of Rodhad or Post Scriptum; proper futurist groove assault! On the flip we have 'Beyond Desire", probably the most restrained effort on here. It's a dark and brooding, body bashing modern industrial workout that fans of AnD or Killawatt will appreciate.
Review: This is the final instalment of Rommek's Set In Stone project and sees Blueprint call on some of techno's best known artists to provide remixes. First up is Makaton's take on "Obsidian", with the UK producer dropping razor-sharp metallic riffs over a dense stepping rhythm. Oliver Ho's Broken English Club project is next up with a radically different rework, turning "Komatiite" into a slowed down, atmospheric dirge. Label owner James Ruskin steers the release back to the dance floor with his hypnotic, orchestral take on "Grintstone", while he pairs up with Karl 'Regis' O'Connor for a menacing mid-paced stepping take on "Flint".
Review: 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".
Review: This is the second part of Rommek's Set in Stone Trilogy for Blueprint and sees the emerging producer embrace a range of styles. "Greywacke" is a moody stepper, led by robust broken beats and a searing bass, while on "Grintstone", he lays down a straighter techno arrangement, one that is swathed in atmospheric textures and led by pounding kicks. In contrast to these pieces, "Arkose" is more understated; revolving around break beats, the rhythm is stripped back and the synths that shine through are eerie and creepy. "Flint" sees him shift gears once again, taking the tempo down a few notches to replicate the disarray that the troubled US town of the same name suffers from.
Review: Last year Rumah debuted on the Church label with the Stutter/Murmer EP, a record which seems to have grabbed the attention of Blueprint boss James Ruskin. This SC1 EP, a collaboration between Rumah and Progression, provides the label's BPLTD series with its first release that's not by Ruskin, and it's a minimal and dark affair. Respectively "SC1" and "SC2" are linear and progressive, dubby and downbeat - similar to a Truncate production - while "SC3" harks back to the days of early MDR releases. The final track, "SC1 (Creech)", then offers a broken beat alternative to the straight up techno before it.
Review: Two of UK techno's most reliable producers get straight to the point on Bites. Unlike The Fear Ratio project, this EP is all about the dance floor at 4am. The title track is an insistent roller, its concrete beats sounding like SP-X, but the series of break downs and chord builds coming across like that other ultra-functional new schooler, Psyk. "D.O.D" is more noisy and grinding, as splintered beats and fractured rhythms compete with ghostly chords for the listener's attention. "Nel", meanwhile, is dubbier and less uptempo, but don't let that fool you - the atonal, surging bass at its centre is tough enough to level a powerful sound system.
Review: In 2010 James Ruskin and Mark Broom turned more heads than usual with the release of their No Time To Soon and Erotic Misery EPs, both of which found a release on Blueprint. Following this the pair formed a new project called The Fear Ratio, and they've just released a new album on Skam. But if you're after another taste of the booming warehouse techno that took hold around the turn of the decade, this two-track single will give you a reenergised version of "No Time Too Soon" (with extra 2015 industrial scrapings) and, for all we know, a reduced version of all time classic "Erotic Misery".
Review: James Ruskin and Mark Broom have a history of collaborating together that goes back the best part of a decade, and Domwen on Ruskin's label finds them in fine form once again. The title track is a dense banger that resounds to pummelling kicks and dense textures, while at its heart an eerie riff filters its way through the arrangement. "Screwface" is leaner and laced with acid as the pair drop firing percussion and wave upon wave of filtered builds. Finally, "Okt" sees the formidable pair strip their sound right back to a tough, grinding rhythm track - ideal for DJs who love looped techno.
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: 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: To commence their 20th birthday celebrations, British techno imprint Blueprint has naturally turned to some of their pals for fresh material. Thus, we get Search Deep Inside Yourself, Surgeon's first appearance on James Ruskin's imprint for 19 years. The Birmingham producer naturally rises to the occasion, surging between metallic loop-jams ("Inside"), bleep-heavy broken techno brilliance ("Deep"), and surprisingly warm, tribal-enthused techno anthems ("Search"). Arguably best of all, though, is closer "Yourself", which sounds like Jaydee's "Plastic Dreams" after 20 years on crack, several spells in jail, and a brutal gang beating. Sure, there are few surprises, but when does Surgeon ever disappoint? You know the drill.