Review: Well, it has to be said that Karl 'Regis' O'Connor has a knack for discovering more than just techno. This latest Downwards missile is a mini-LP from the foreboding Autumns, an introspective Irish outfit working on the outskirts of both punk and techno. It's a band which knows how to blend the two, without seeming forced or out of place. "Tired Eyes", for instance, knocks out a gorgeous guitar riff which is moulded and re-shaped thanks to a heap of delay. It might sound simple, but they way Autumns do it different, more challenging on the ear but nonetheless seductive. As new post-punk music goes, thank *&%! for this! Finally a proper EP of two-chord nastiness!
Review: Downwards returns with Live From Tokyo, housing some rare live material from the Regis and Surgeon project British Murder Boys. Conceived in 2002 as outlet for the British pair to take their brand of techno into ever more extreme sonic territory, British Murder Boys material surfaced over a series of 12"s on Downwards and Counterbalance before the project was put on hold around 2006. Having been coaxed back into working together by Liberation Technologies, further BMB material is due to arrive through the more familiar outlet of Downwards. Ahead of a full BMB retrospective, Live In Tokyo would seem to originate from the duo's performance together in the Japanese city last year. Stylistically you can expect a cut of brattish, broken techno wedged between some feedback laden noises pieces.
Review: Originally released in 2004, Fist/Splinter was the first BMB 12" on Karl O'Conner's Downwards following their first two EPs for Surgeon's label Counterbalance. By this stage, ten years ago, the pair's rough and rhythmic collaboration had already earned a formidable reputation as a force to be reckoned via their fierce and unrelenting drum tracks. The rolling kicks and industrial sizzles of "Fist" build and swirl into a crescendo of coarse noise before a moaning hum underlines the mayhem, while "Splinter" strips back the caustic overtones, instead beating down like a intensified Kalon production. No nonsense.
Review: Cub is an irregular collaboration between Downwards owner Karl 'Regis' O'Connor and Simon Shreeve, who has released under his own name n the storied UK label. Seeing From Above is just the third Cub release in eight years, and the first new material in six years, but it was worth the wait. The title track is a stepping, clanging affair that is reminiscent of Regis' own In A Syrian Tongue. "Informal Beauty" is more abstract and sees the pair drop an understated, heavily textured arrangement. However that sense of menace is never too far away and "Primitive Sleep" is a moody stepper that resounds to grainy filters and grimy beats.
Review: Taylor Burch and Joe Chocherell's DVA Damas project has always inhabited a sound space all of its own. While heavily influenced by post-punk rock, new wave and minimal wave synth-pop, quite a few of their records also draw on contemporary minimal techno and Visionquest style tech-house. It's the latter that comes to the fore on "Clear Cut", with Burch's stylized, groaning, Mascara-clad vocal riding a dubby, hypnotic tech-house groove and spiraling, EBM electronics. It stretches out for a mesmerizing 10 minutes, too, and subsequently overshadows the fine - but not quite as potent - bonus tracks.
Review: Following on from their excellent 2013 album Nightshade, new wave/punk act DVA Damas return to Karl O'Connor's label with Wet Vision. The title track sees the duo fuse the rockabilly guitar chimes of late 80s/early 90s The Fall with atmospheric textures as Taylor Burch's breathy meanderings makes its way up through a stepping rhythm. "Wet Vision II" is more abstract, held together only by reverberated claps, while "Silence" is like a spikier, more forthright version of Tropic of Cancer, its mysterious textures supported by broken beats. DVA Damas also make concessions to the dance floor on this release and "On Your Heels" is a brilliant, dubbed out stepping techno track.
Review: The other founder of Downwards, Peter Sutton, makes his voice heard again on this reissue. Featuring two of the tracks from his 1997 debut album, Into the Exotic, this re-release reminds the listener of his unstoppable, forceful sound. "Cold Steel", from that album is a slice of classic Birmingham techno, its grubby, grimy beats and rhythm pounding away to an almost nauseating climax. "Contact", which also featured on the album, is somewhat cleaner sounding, but the same heads-down, loopy approach applies. Three also features a previously unheard Sutton composition, "Hung". It is unclear when it was produced, but the groove is more stepping and is shot through with acid undercurrents. Maybe it's the sound of this most brilliant techno artist in relaxation mode.
Review: Originally released on Karl O'Connor's label back in 1999, this reissue shows that Female's second album has lost none of its white-knuckle ferocity. From the rolling beats and acid undercurrent of "No Sense / No Reason" to the dizzyingly complex rhythms of "My Untied Hands", and the rolling groove and hammering beats of "Day In, Day Out", this collection clearly provided inspiration for the loop techno deluge that followed. Tellingly though, dance floor prime techno bangers like the ear-drilling riffs-led "Because The Night" (nothing to do with the Patti Smith song of the same name) still sound vital when played beside modern day gloomy fare.
My Body Is A Dying Machine (live) - (5:58) 153 BPM
Review: And so, Regis' Downwards stable finally comes out of the caves and onto our turntables - or should we say into our minds? This latest release by Justin Briadrick under his Final alias is so damn sparse and wondrous that you'd probably have a hard time making people dance to it at 3AM. However, that is not the point of this release, and in fact, we love the fact that Karl O'Connor releases ambient of this calibre alongside the vicious, beat-driven works that are usually associated to Downwards. Black Dollars is a pensive LP, one made up of lamenting drones, lonesome shards of noise, and plenty of rich post processing. Dig in, there is no reason why you wouldn't like this if you're into the whole Downwards sound.
That's Where The Answer Was, In Your Body - (7:43) 100 BPM
Review: The mysterious Grebenstein is the latest artist to grace Downwards. S/T boasts a similarly bleak, eerie approach to producers like Samuel Kerridge and Oake, undercut by the kind of tribal broken beats that made Regis' own In A Syrian Tongue such a landmark release. It starts with the searing drones and rumbling drums of "Acting Within Your Terms" before progressing into the utterly menacing tones of "No You Don't" and "Principles of Trust". The latter's dark soundscapes are underpinned by crashing drums and it is this element that makes the final track, "That's Where The Answer Was, In Your Body" so memorable, as bombastic kicks and percussive volleys underpin the air of gloom.
Strong Proud Stupid & Superior II - (7:47) 120 BPM
Strong Proud Stupid & Superior III - (5:59) 110 BPM
Review: This is the second release from Jan Grebenstein on Downwards and this time, he's brought a friend to keep him company. Vocalist SEEFRIED - those caps are intentional by the way - mutters her way over the rickety drums and static noise that needles away on the title track. "Strong Proud Stupid & Superior II" is less dramatic and more understated as the German producer manouvres his way through a down-tempo, scratchy sound scape that wouldn't sound out of place on a Sandra Electronics release. Closing out this release is the third "Strong, Proud" installment, which sees Grebenstein up the ante - but only very slightly - to include metal drums and tortured wails.
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: Downwards boss Regis surely does keep us on our toes still after all these years. After laying low for a while, he has got the label back in full swing after unleashing a monster EP by Simon Shreeve. This time he now presents new material by maverick producer and UK legend Justin Broderick under the JK Flesh moniker. The brooding grindcore dub of "Nothing Is Free" will be right up any Downwards loyalists alley, as will the snarling audio assault of "Kontorted" which slithers around walls of hiss, feedback and guttural low end brutalism. Surgeon's remix of "Nothing Is Free" blows the doors off in pretty spectacular fashion as always, exploiting the raw voltage of his famed modular setup brilliantly.
Review: Samuel Kerridge was responsible for one of 2012?s most remarkable and self assured debuts in the form of the Auris Interna EP, whose grimy, slow-motion soup recalled the likes of Andy Stott and Powell, and made a stark contrast to the imprint's usual precision techno. Given the producer's experimental tendencies and the undeniably gothic qualities present in his work, it comes as little surprise that Kerridge's latest EP comes on Regis' Downwards label. Entitled Waiting For Love, the release takes the form of a track in four parts which run the gauntlet between white hot noise, moody, dubbed out techno and living, breathing drone, all mastered by Russell Haswell. His debut was auspicious enough, but this is next level - terrifying, absorbing and beautiful in equal measure.
From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 1 - (5:02) 122 BPM
From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 2 - (4:43) 164 BPM
From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 3 - (6:29)
From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 4 - (6:03) 150 BPM
Review: The gothically titled From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh sees Samuel Kerridge and Downwards further strengthen their working relationship. Emerging on Horizontal Ground, Samuel Kerridge's gravelly, tectonic form of techno drew favourable comparisons to the likes of Andy Stott, Powell, and certain aspects of the Blackest Ever Black discography. The suitably macabre From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh echoes Kerridge's previous Downwards transmission in laying his work across a suite of four individually numbered tracks, mixing searing noise and reverb-soaked, scorched earth rhythms.
Review: First surfacing with an impressive debut EP for the Horizontal Ground label, it makes perfect sense that Berlin-based Samuel Kerridge should then gravitate towards Downwards to further expand on his own brand of industrial techno. You get feeling that the knowing sense of humour apparent in many of the titles to Kerridge productions appeals to someone like Downwards label boss Karl O'Connor. After several EPs for Downwards, Kerridge unveils his debut album A Fallen Empire which comes brandishing "7 pieces of sonic warfare" that lodge the producer ever deeper into the crawlspace between jagged industrial techno and white noise laden experimental sounds. The huge "Death Is Upon Us" is a morbid highlight.
Review: This third album from UK techno producer Samuel Kerridge is based on his performance at the Atonal Festival in Berlin. It's hard to say that anything that he does is dancefloor-based, but there is greater recognition of club strictures here than on his previous releases. "FLA 4" and "FLA 5" are typical of his sound - all tangled, dense textures and screeching noise - but elsewhere, the work follows a different direction. "FLA 1" sees dense, in your face beats combined with a paranoid vocal sample, both "FLA 2" and "FLA 3" integrate glitchy percussive threads with distorted broken beats and the insane pulses of "FLA 7" sounds like Blacknecks on steroids, but without the tough kicks.
Review: Originally released a few years ago in a limited edition cassette of just 100 copies, Marshstepper's debut release is now made available for a digital audience. For the uninitiated, the producer makes a dense, at times impenetrable sound. The first untitled cut evolves from dense, ambient textures and then prods the listener with growling, howling vocals, before proceeding into stepping beats and climaxing with swirls of jangling, psychedelic guitars. The second untitled cut is just as epic, with greyscale tones leading into violent guitar bursts and dirge-like chants. If you can stay the distance with these uncompromising tracks - which are both over 10 minutes - you are sure to be rewarded.
Review: Brandishing a dark sound that draws from electronics and string-based instruments and adds a touch of the crepuscular to finish, the Lupine-fancying OAKE have become a most suitable act for the current iteration of Karl O'Connor's Downwards label. First emerging on DNS early last year with the Offenbarung EP, the Berlin duo have subsequently committed another EP of claustrophobic electronics to the label as well as contributing to the rather fine Halha compilation. Auferstehung is an 11-track debut album from OAKE, which offers the pair more of a canvas to work with. With a title that translates as "resurrection" and a rather opaque theme that apparently "marks an end and a beginning at the same time," there is plenty that is open to interpretation about Auferstehung, and the album is largely free of any techno aspirations. Instead OAKE elect to coax you deeper into their web of sonic paranoia, which at times is a joyously crushing experience.
Review: Despite being over 20 years old, Downwards is a label that seems more willing than ever to push the boundaries of expectation. Lycan obsessives OAKE join the label with their debut missive Offenbarung, a three-track release that sits close to Samuel Kerridge's work in the scale of things, though the Berlin duo has their own unmistakable sound. From the off, OAKE are all about building and executing a sense of tension; the first two tracks seem them slither in the direction of your senses, not necessarily driven forward but creeping none the less. Scraping textures act as the rhythmic base and low groaning vocals meld with dissonant, rumbling tones. Final track "Nihnin Ned Bargund" is the closest thing to techno, commencing in dramatic fashion with a gong like singular kick drum sucking you in before a rising crescendo of reverberant metallic textures and psychosis inducing strings pull you into a nightmarish dimension.
Review: The wolf and caps lock loving pair known simply as OAKE make a welcome return to Downwards, complementing their stunning debut from earlier this year with a four track EP that is, if anything, even heavier going! Quite where Karl O'Connor found OAKE isn't clear but the Berlin pair fit right in on the current configuration of Downwards alongside the likes of Cut Hands, Kerridge, DVA Damas et al. Whereas OAKE's three track debut Offenbarung was finely balanced between cinematic strings and vocals reminiscent of Coil and a pin-dropping bass-heavy dread shared with kindred spirits Demdike Stare and The Haxan Cloak, Vollstreckung is resolutely darker in execution. See, for example, the serating bass tones of "Sehtohree Diin Chromtas Vehns" and the cacophonous drums of "Tuturden Giit Chreteen Dwe" that both drowning out the more delicate vocals.
Wicked Game (Digital Only Bonus Track) - (4:10) 120 BPM
Review: You can always trust Downwards to release unconventional music, and Image Certifies is no exception. Ora Iso is a collaboration between Kathleen Malay and Jason Kudo, and this album reflects on the time that they both spent living in New York. Tellingly, it is also a "love letter to a society dying of its own self-induced cancers". On tracks like "Deep Fix" and "Dead Riot", with their strangled guitars and Malay's troubled tones, it's not hard to hear why they dedicated it to the collapse of every day life. On other occasions, like "No Fish" or "Digital Crutch", the pair veer into the type of abstractions that Sandra Electronics specialise in, but this is still a work suited for troubled times, as the mutant noise and shrieks of "Have I Gone to Far" so ably demonstrate.
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: A mighty 19 years since we last heard a solo album from Regis on Downwards, Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss sees Karl O'Connor return with a post-era defining sound. Stripped-back, heavy, and broken beat techno swinging with tribal percussion and industrial malice, it's tracks like "Cracked Earth", "Calling Down A Curse" and "The Sun Rose Pure" that should appeal most to hardened Downwards characters. Find slower, more malevolent numbers in "The Blind Departing", made harder still by the moans and gnarly bass in "I See Fire", collectively plotted through a album of loose narratives and beatless sound design in tracks like "Eros In Tangiers" and "Alone Of All Her Sex". Long live Regis!
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: 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: 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: Regis aka Karl O'Connor revisits his releases on the now shuttered Blackest Ever Black label for this fine compilation. The rolling, insistent drums on "Blood Witness" from the 2011 In A Syrian Tongue EP still sound fresh, while the droning,'Blinding Horses' from the same release also features. Tongue Box also features a new take on this track, and the frosty sound scapes of the 'Stable Boy Mix' are nothing short of mesmerising. In contrast, O'Connor delivers a tighter, rhythm-heavy version of "Manbait" - the title track of his 2015 compilation on the label - as well as the robust "Masterside" stepper available in two dance floor-primed versions.
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: 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.
Propagates Of Desire (feat Aaron Turner) - (6:22) 150 BPM
Actuality Repeats - (4:43) 150 BPM
Review: Kerridge's long association with Downwards continues on his first release of 2018. The I marks a shift in sound, with his trademark viscous white noise replaced with something starker and stripped back. On "Silent Notes", this manifests itself in the form of chilling strings, swinging, robotic drums and haunting atmospheric textures. "Fascination Sustain" also ploughs a chilling furrow, with the UK producer laying down a jittery rhythm that acts as a backdrop for tingling electronic tones and menacing bass. "Propagates of Desire" marks a return to the frazzled darkness of Kerridge's usual layered sound, albeit playing out against a high-paced grime back drop, while "Actuality Repeats" is an abstract affair, as he retreats back into the shadows.
Review: Simon Shreeve appears again this year for Karl O'Connor's esteemed imprint, following up the impressive Healing Bowl EP. It's no wonder really; the man also known as Monic pushes the kind of highly-engineered modern industrial music on his own Osiris Musik label, so easily finds a welcome home here. On side A, harsh textural abrasions are contrasted by body bashing bass frequencies on the demonic "System Living" while the seething and slow burning breaks contrasted by eerie chimes and nefarious sound design on "Silver Sun" sounds like running through a nightmare in slow motion. The paranoid and immersive sound design of the title track (on the flip) is reminiscent of some of Trent Reznor's soundtrack work, yet fantastic in its own right. Like Shifted is doing likewise of late, Shreeve deconstructs the classic aesthetic of UK techstep, deconstructing it in a modern format.
Review: Simon Shreeve is mainly known for his work under the Monic guise and as part of the dubstep act Kryptic Minds, and Bowl is the first release under his own name. It sounds like Regis' label is the ideal platform for this music; "S/KA" throws up a dense rhythm and rumbling break beats and the title track explores this theme further, with what sounds like a herd of elephants shrieking over the kind of primal beats last heard on Regis' In A Syrian Tongue. Shreeve also displays a more reflective side here; "A Thousand & One" is built on eerie textures and microscopic beats, while "Sharda" goes back to broken beats but wraps them around melancholic, introspective melodies.