Review: Don't Be Afraid delivers a killer split release that features some of techno's most innovative producers. First up is Sunil Sharpe with "Goddhead"; like his DJing, Sharpe's contribution here is complex but impactful, with skeletal broken beats and a bleary bass supporting dramatic stabs and muffled vocal samples. Minos & Moving Still push in a different direction on "One Word Techno Special": revolving around a dubbed-out rhythm, the track resounds to rich chords and niggling percussion. Tvo's "Wer" is more abrasive, with noisy soundscapes combined with a minimal groove, while Fear-E's contribution also has a visceral undercurrent, with "Moving Target" centred on a lean, acid-soaked rhythm.
Review: Still revelling in their release of Ikonika's Bodies EP, Don't Be Afraidenlists a fresh set of remixers, and an Ikonika VIP dub, for its first roll out of 2021. The Swamp81 affiliate and Illaman producer Sumgii takes on "What Kinda Pain Are We Talking About?" with a heavy hitting remix of hybrid techno drums and interjecting dubstep/rave. Impressing also is the 91-92 hardcore inspired sonds of Semtek and Iona's Midnight Snacc project, sending in something spacey and sweetly atmospheric, with its lo-fi breakbeats a ++. This EP's second wildcard artist, Quest?onmarq, brings a Jersey club / techno sound to DBA with a number that goes large on its bassline next to a fanfare of drums and synths in Ikonika's Jeff Mills-esque VIP dub. Whose afraid of Detroit.
Review: Don't Be Afraid return with the second chapter in a double compilation, celebrating a decade at the cutting edge of electronic music in the UK and beyond. '10.02' sees Semtek's label delving deeper into a fertile underground, further connecting the sense of musical curiosity and willingness to experiment that's been implicit in DBA's namesake from the beginning. Highlights come from Motor City legend Scott Ferguson (Ferrispark) with the knackered mood music of "This Is What I Love to Do", legend Mr G goes back to the Metalbox days on the tough, steely and funked-up house of "Birthday Jam", through to moments of sublime and life-affirming deepness as heard on Pablo R. Ruiz's "El Sol Se Acerca" or Minos's dubby "Laminar Flow" respectively.
Review: As ever, the legendary production stylings of Ikonika have done it again as she unveils an absolutely stunning selection here on Don't Be Afraid' under the EP name 'Bodies'. It's always an enjoyable experience taking in one of her new EP's, but this one stands out for sure as we firstly dive into the stunning harmonic layerings and melodic inputs of 'Your Body', before sweeping smoothly into the more moogy bass punches and tight drum switches of 'Nobody'. Next, 'What Kinda Pain Are We Talking About?' combines moody sub-lines with hypnotic arpeggios and softer carnival rhythms with really fun results, finishing up with the shimmering delays and sweeping pads within the Roller mix of 'Bodied'. Awesome stuff as per!
Review: Ian Lehman's debut release as Doubt appeared on Don't Be Afraid back in 2014, and after a string of releases on other imprints , he makes his way back to Semtek's imprint. "April" starts the release with dreamy, lullaby melodies and an understated, organic groove, while on the title track, Lehman offers up a more tracky affair. While the loose, out there approach remains, there is a sense of mystery with the arrangement also integrating eerie sound effects. There is a similar aesthetic at play on "What Is Happening", albeit with a more electronic, glitchy sensibility playing out, while on "Samusex" Lehman voyages into a darker, more foreboding space, still supported by those loose drums and percussion.
Review: Manuel Gonzales aka MGUN follows up 2016's Gentium album with another inspired, sprawling work. As befits the Detroit producer's freewheeling approach, Axiom veers wildly in styles, from the disco-led "You Inside Me" to the more tracky grooves like "Nichrome" and "Sil". The album also features more abstract, minimal arrangements in the form of "K Art W Heel" and "She Finna Blow", while he also makes nods to deeper techno strains on the moody, chord-led "359". As he has demonstrated before, MGUN isn't just about house and techno, and Gonzales proves himself to be an adept electro arranger on the spiky "Hole". If you're looking for a snapshot of where modern electronic music is heading, give Axiom your attention.
Review: The brilliant Hermione Frank aka rRoxymore returns to Don't Be Afraid for a second instalment of Thoughts.. Fusing her abstract whims with left-field techno structures, this three-tracker shows that the UK producer is a creative force to be reckoned with. "This Is Not What You Think" sees her conjure up the kind of outer space tones last heard on an In Sync record, while on "Run ... Feet", she goes off the deep end with a distorted, flailing workout that drifts in and out of unpredictable time signatures. Finally, there's "Mythical Technology", where Frank returns to the dance floor, albeit with atmospheric break downs and a series of unpredictable cut-ups.
Review: Brum's best techno export since Regis, Jayson Wynters returns to Don't Be Afraid with four more strident constructions. Rooted in classic machine funk and loop craft we take off with the gradually pummelling percussive hypnotiser "Beta" and crash land to the soothing synthesis and deep acid textures of "The Kansei Method". In between we're treated to the soft-but-stern swoons of the white knuckle "One Hundred N Forty" and bashed senseless by the warehouse crumbling jacker "Into The Void". On point.
The Workers Are On Strike (Via App remix) - (5:29) 131 BPM
He's Been Teaching Me To Drive (Ron Morelli remix) - (5:52) 127 BPM
It's Not Worth The Bother (E. Myers remix) - (5:18) 136 BPM
Why Does Your Father Look So Nervous (M/R remix) - (7:42) 125 BPM
Review: Karen Gwyer's third album, Rembo was one of 2017's best long players. It saw the US artist consolidate her reputation as a purveyor of raw, hardware-driven electronic music and was one of the many highlights in Don't Be Afraid's stellar release schedule. Now Gwyer's material from the album gets reworked by an impressive group of artists. First up is Via App, who drops a grating, abstract take on "The Workers Are On Strike", while Ron Morelli takes time out from running L.I.E.S. to drops a skewed, stripped back techno version of 'He's Been Teaching Me to Drive'. It's hard to choose a highlight, but that honour belongs here to E.Myers, who uses sublime keys and a funk bass to turn 'It's Not Worth the Bother' into a gloriously soulful affair.
The Boutique Of Neverending Dreams - (7:54) 122 BPM
The Printer (That Stole My Time) - (7:36) 127 BPM
Road To The Sea - (6:27) 123 BPM
Review: Irish twosome TR One has drifted between labels over the years, variously delivering quietly impressive house and techno EPs for some fine imprints. Here they make their first appearance on Semtek's formidable Don't Be Afraid imprint. Hints of their techno heritage can be found on wonderfully tactile opener "A Month Has Passed", a pitched-up deep house shuffler rich in Steve Reich style marimba melodies, Motor City techno chords and bubbling electronic percussion. The gentle positivity continues via the swirling Italo-disco/deep house fusion of "The Boutique of Neverending Dreams", before they reach for the New Jersey organs on the sumptuous and sensual "The Printer (That Stole My Time)". Hypnotic late night headiness is provided by spacey dub techno-influenced closer "Road to the Sea".
Review: It's been almost a year to the day since Hermione Frank brought her Rroxymore project to Don't Be Afraid for the first time. This follow-up, then, is well overdue. The Berlin-based DJ/producer's work tends towards the imaginative and left-of-centre, generally delivering club jams rich in live hardware manipulation and straight-to-tape workouts. As on this EP, that results in a great combination of atmospheric music and loose, ear-pleasing beats. All three tracks here are impressive in their own right, from the trippy, rising and falling synths and hypnotic, locked-in beats of "Thoughts of Introvert" - a track whose effortless beauty and fluidity is notable - to the loose-and-percussive weirdness of "Mycetozoa" and thrusting, tropical-tinged creepiness of superb opener "Prodrome".
Review: Soundspecies member Henry Keen returns to the warm bosom of Don't Be Afraid following a two-year absence. The London producer is on-point from the word go, with opener "On The Roads" brilliantly joining the dots between Kaidi Tatham style jazz-funk/broken beat fusion and dusty, Detroit style deep house. You'll find similar organic warmth and jazzy instrumentation at the heart of the altogether deeper "Icy", while "Ants In Amber" sees Keen smother a rock solid, kick-drum dominated beat in gentle acid lines, galactic electronics and bleeping melody lines. Finally, he pushes up the tempo and looks towards South America on the fizzing, broken house highlight that is "Black Cast", where simple marimba melodies rise above a booming, bass-heavy rhythm track.
Review: Michigan's Jason Fine has appeared mainly for esteemed imprints like FXHE and Kontra Musik since 2007. He makes his debut for Semtek's Bristol based imprint Don't Be Afraid with the Moonscapes EP, following up his remix of Typesun on the label's Dubs 10" series in 2016. The shadowy producer's deep and emotive takes on the homegrown 'hi-tech soul' sound are expertly executed. From the dubby and evocative opener "Amalthea", to the spacey and tunnelling acid of "Dione" and the sublimely galactic excursions in deepness like "Elara" or "Larissa", respectively, which hone in on the same vibe of Windy City experts like Chris Gray or Da Rand Land: Fine has really got it going on!
Review: Given her rising reputation in recent years, it's something of a surprise to find that Rembo is Karen Gwyer's first full-length excursion since 2013's Kiki The Wormhole on Opal Tapes. While that latter set was impressive, Rembi is arguably even better. For starters, Gwyer refuses to settle on one groove, following a glistening ambient opener with a fuzzy, IDM-influenced chunk of left-of-centre dancefloor techno, which in turn makes way for a beat-less slab of hazy synthesizer positivity. It's a pattern that continues throughout, as the talent American producer delivers bustling, redlined techno jams laden with dirt-encrusted synthesizer motifs, spacey IDM club tracks and picturesque electronic soundscapes that sidestep easy categorization.
Review: 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.
Review: Detroit's DJ Bone is and always has been one of his city's most underrated producers. In fact, the man is a killer behind the decks too, mashing up house and techno with that inimitable US speed that has also been championed by the likes of DJ Rush et al. His relationship with Bristol's Don't Be Afraid has been a fruitful one of the last year or two, releasing a couple of gnarly EPs under the Differ-ENT moniker, a sound that expands upon his comparatively more rigid techno sound. This is the debut album under the Differ-ENT alias, and we most certainly agree that It's Good To Be Differ-ENT." There isn't a dud tune on here, and for an LP that focusses primarily on the dancefloor, it manages to convey a strong narrative throughout, built with mastery and dedication by this talented artist. Tunes like "Met Allergic Flew Antsy" or "Marvel Less" are muscly and fast-paced, but there is still plenty of exploration going on at their core, while remnants of electro can be heard on tunes like "Compute Her". This is a vibrant LP, made up of many different guises and shades, all finely tuned around the dancehall, and strangely fitting with the UK's lust for the broken sound. Recommended.
Review: Bristol's Don't Be Afraid, proudly helmed by the experienced DJ Semtek, is fast becoming one of our go-to imprints, and is arguably in the running for label of the year. Each new release is more finessed and mature than the next, and Semtek is quickly introducing us to a whole new selection of artists. This time, it's the Dyad duo that make an appearance on the label, and their cold, steely strain of techno is a perfect way to bring in the Autumnal months. Ben Gibson and Fundamental Interaction are the two producers behind this project, and this is the first time that they branch out from their self-titled DYAD imprint. "Illumine" is a fast, kick-driven techno missile with a spiralling set of sonics at its core, while "Oblique" takes a darker, more barren approach to its thumping 4/4; it's one which instantly calls to the warehouse, and the sort of material one drops as the clock hits 5am. Sick.
Review: London-based electronic artist Karen Gwyer has kept on impressing us over the last four years. With releases for labels like No Pain In Pop, Kaleidoscope, and Nous, Semtek's Don't Be Afraid seems like a natural fit to her improvisational take on techno. "Prophase Metaphase Anaphase Telophase" is a stunner, a nine minutes' techno journey that's spans the whole length over nine minutes with its loose, aqueous groove barely held in place by raw, analog drum programming. "And Again Those Eyes" sees the artist return to more familiar territories thanks to a broken sway of beats and melodics, whereas "Meiosis Gametes" is a harsh, menacing techno swing with an electrifying buzz running through its groove. Solid, as per usual. This material comes hotly recommended. She's one to watch out for in 2016 and beyond.
Review: Now, Damon Bell is an interesting signing, indeed. This is especially true for this latest EP on Bristol's Don't Be Afraid, both because he acts as an interesting and refreshing addition to the label's catalogue, but also because he has pretty much only released on Deepblak until now. "Ankh Boogie" is everything you'd expect from Damon Bell: a kinetic, dusty percussion that has been processed significantly, and an airy collection of circulating atmospherics. "Aural Afrek" is deeper, more mysterious and techno-minded, while "Time For Change" breaks out the dubbiness and goes for a Basic Channel kind of approach that is layered smoothly over a more delicate house framework. Effective and impressive - shouts to Semtek.
Review: Given Don't Be Afraid's long relationship with Manuel 'M Gun' Gonzales, it's pleasing to see Semtek's label releasing the Detroit producer's long-awaited debut album. Predictably, it's a fine set, containing a mix of far-out techno throbbers - the hypnotic, piano-laden alien funk of "Half Past 3", fuzzy "Past Due", and classic Derrick May revivalism of "Bed & Breakfast" - dusty electro jams (the brilliant "NVR"), and more experimental downtempo fare (see the bass-heavy, dubbed-out "Nobs" and jazzy opener "Pok"). While it arguably takes mutiple listens to really peel back the layers and get your head round Gonzalez's impressive use of textures, it's more than worth the effort. Put simply, Gentium more than delivers on its' promise.
Review: Part of the Special Editions series from Semtek's label, this four-tracker takes inspiration from 90s techno. The title track is an old school, minimal techno workout, its repetitive tonal rhythm given some modern relevance thanks to the snappy, Dettmann-style percussion. There are no such concessions on "Sse" or "Nik" - the former rides a buzzing, spine-tingling bass to reach a ravey climax, while the latter is a noisy analogue track. Reminiscent of DBX, its yelping riffs and primal rhythm sound vital and energetic. Finally, there's "Can". A rolling, loopy affair just shy of the 130bpm mark, it may not be the most imaginative composition, but it's certainly an effective one.
Review: This release is reminiscent of the very best of 90s deep house. Luke Harney has brought together a heavyweight collaborative team here, which includes Lewis Wright on vibraphone and the seminal guitar player Miles James. It's this dynamic interplay which makes "Right" such a stand out track, as James' strutting guitar plays out over a powerful bass and jazzy key tinkling leads the listener to a spine chill-inducing break down. US producer Jason Fine has been tasked with the remix and he does a fine job, making the drums slightly heavier and adding in some eerie synths, but it's hard to beat the beautiful original track.
Review: Having been impressed by Ben Cohen's contribution to Don't Be Afraid's 19.5 label sampler 12", Semtek has decided to give the relative newcomer a full EP on which to showcase his talents. The Purple Moon EP is an intriguingly atmospheric affair, with Cohen delivering a trio of dancefloor workouts - plus the pleasing ambient weirdness of "Slowness" - variously influenced by classic Detroit techno, the creepiness of '80s industrial, and the snappy beats of Chicago house. The spooky throb and spacey synths of "Black Oddyssey" [sic] arguably standout, though most DJs will instinctively reach for the title track, whose cracking military percussion, clandestine textures and barely audible vocal samples make it something of a banger. Spacey techno opener "Kanem Bu Warriors" is pretty darn tasty, too.
Review: Don't Be Afraid sub-label DBA Dubs pulls out an intriguing single, pitching tastings of Bristol bass, middle-eastern themes and watery tabla rhythms of D-Malice with Canada's house faithful Basic Soul Unit. This D-Malice release, somewhat of a surprise inclusion to the label, follows music by Claws For?, beat fusionist Kelpe, Adjowa and No Corner and Idle Hands artist Lily. Both tracks fit a house tempo and it's the percussion of the original that's the real hook, while BSU's thumping remixing delivers a menacing Vermona kick drum with swathes of heavy, dub techno-spheres. A versatile release.
Review: It's two years since Nick 'Mr Beatnick' Wilson released the final part of his brilliant Synthetes Trilogy on Don't Be Afraid, and a year since his similarly impressive Marshmallows 12" on Tief. As usual, he's in fine form, kicking things off with the spacey but melancholic synthesizer chords, sun-kissed electronic melodies and rolling, Italo-influenced bottom end of "Stutter". His renowned beat programming skills come to the fore on the Detroit futurism-goes-broken beat brilliance of "Jellyfish", before "Formed In The Stance" offers up a deeper, marginally darker and certainly moodier take on broken techno. Finally, he's back to his sunny, melodious best with the sparkling brilliance of "Obsidian Morning". Stellar stuff, as always.
Memory Jacket (Madteo's Tutto Nero remix) - (7:31) 113 BPM
Review: Semtek's Don't Be Afraid imprint returns with a rather special little two-tracker for the Dubs series. Mystery producer Lily - who has quietly appeared on Spargel Trax, No Corner and Idle Hands in the past - drops "Memory Jacket, one of the strangest and most daring five minutes to emanate from the Bristol-based imprint. The tune is a stuttering, pseudo-house joint filled with flurries of FX and resembling something more like a post-punk B-side than a club number. Strangely enough, it's NY's Madteo who is the one to re-arrange the track back into some sort of regular shape and the Queens-based goes for a truly 'insider' house approach, where a stumbling 4/4 groove meets deadly, club-ready chords. Warmly recommended.