Review: Athens Computer Underground may not be a well-known name, but if you're looking for atmospheric electronic music, you've come to the right place. Inhabiting a grey area where electro, classic UK techno, electronica and acid all co-habit, All Lovers Young is an impressive, effortless release. It opens with the naive, Plaid-esque melodies of "Cantharidine", before taking a tour of early Black Dog/B12 techno on the 303-soaked poly-rhythms and eerie synths of "V.A.L.I.S.". "Jitter" is a high-paced roller, while also retaining a melodic touch and on "Four O'Clocks", an androgynous vocal is layered over raw 303s to devastating effect.
Review: Basic Frame is the studio project for Davide Nannini and Alessio Mascia, two Italian DJs of long standing. Manual Screening makes clear that they have a love of purist, underground techno. "Age" sees a relentless rhythm underscoring tranced out synths, while "Ing" is more abrasive. Based on a similarly utilitarian minimal groove, it sees the pair strip away melody in favour of clanging, hypnotic riffs. The most impressive track is "Nks". Once again, the focus is on minimalism; taking their cues from Rob Hood and the late 90s output of James Ruskin, they manage to strike a balance between complex percussion and pounding club sensibilities.
Open Doors (Chris McCormack remix) - (5:39) 129 BPM
Review: Taken from Long's recent artist album, this remix collection is a reminder of the esteem in which the UK producer is held. He works with his erstwhile Space DJz collaborator Jamie Bissmire to turn "Fading" into a dark, dubby percussive groove. Bissmire flies solo on the rework of "Calling Broadsword". Tougher than the previous remix, it unravels to the sound of screeching sirens, cavernous break downs and big room filters. However, the real surprise is left till last; the label has coaxed seminal producer Chris McCormack back into the studio. Unlike some of his searing back catalogue, his take on "Open Doors" is melodic and playful, as blissed out melodies unfold over a gentle, metallic back beat.
Review: With releases on Illegal Alien and his own Monotony imprint to his credit, Bryan Chapman now steps up with a killer EP for London's ePM. Featuring Chapman's distinctively dense and tripped out style, it moves from the rumbling, layered groove of "Kala" into the higher-paced "Nimrala", where he effectively deploys a cacophony of chiming bells against a rough rhythm. "Ulu" sees Chapman descend down the wormhole again with droning textures and a powerful supporting rhythm, while he changes tact on closing track "Mato". Slowing down the pace, considerably, the low-slung groove is swathed in grimy dungeon acid textures.
Review: Despite having released music for two decades, Donnell Knox is one of Detroit's unsung techno heroes. True to the form that has featured on his releases for Sect and Black Nation, Out There is an uncompromising affair. The title track sees Knox skillfully fuse deep tones with a stripped back minimal techno rhythm, while "Speak So They Listen" achieves a similar balancing act. Fusing spacey textures with acidic blips and a skipping rhythm, it succeeds in the rare feat of appealing to the head as well as the feet. The label has also chosen the remixer wisely and the ever-dependable Dan Curtin turns the title track into a metal-plated rhythm that is reminiscent of Stacey Pullen's "Psychotic Funk".
Review: Adame originally came to prominence as a keyboard player for Underground Resistance act Galaxy 2 Galaxy, but as Day Labor shows, he deserves his own attention. "Rise & Shine" is sensuous ambience, while "Out to Get It" sees him laying down a rolling techno groove to rival DJ 3000. It's one of many rewarding twists and turns by Adame, and he also delivers "Handed Down", a brilliant, skewed jazz-house jam and the dubby groove of "The Grind". However, Adame is a Detroit producer first and foremost and nothing screams the Motor City quite as loudly as the slinky metallic rhythms and sublime, shimmering melodies of "The Reason".
Review: Adame is one of the new school of Detroit techno producers, and has enjoyed a long relationship with London's ePM. On the title track, his ability to merge the soulful sounds of the Motor City with modern techno structures is apparent; strings soar and soar to reach an epic crescendo as a rough, rolling rhythm plays out. Newcomer Tresillo's version lacks the original's musical elements, instead putting a focus on a tough, acid-fuelled arrangement. In a neat twist, ePM has commissioned first-wave Detroit pioneer Juan Atkins to rework "Descendants". Despite techno becoming a global sound, Atkins' approach is still highly distinctive and the wiry, snaking reshape he delivers would be impossible for any other producer to emulate.
Review: Sometime UR collaborator Esteban Adame gets one of the tracks from last year's Day Labor album remixed. In its original form, "Rise & Shine" is a beautiful, string-soaked ambient piece of mood music, while the 'Beat' mix adds a rolling rhythm to these musical elements. Frequencia Decon ventures further down this path with a heavier, dense rhythm track, while Mark Flash's take is a glorious Detroit techno workout, the strings to the fore and the melodies unfolding over a jerky rhythm. Finally it's the turn of UR themselves and they don't disappoint, turning Adame's ambience into a stripped back, dark electro number.
Review: Two of techno's biggest names team up for this slamming release. First up, UK veteran Mark Broom delivers a 'dubplate' take on the Flooorplan standard "Never Grow Old". Broom focuses his efforts on snippets of the original vocal and wraps them around a dramatic chord build, making for a fine peak-time workout. Broom's own "Jungle" is next: like a streamlined version of his tribal techno work from the early 00s, a niggling filter and insistent claps weave their way in and out of the rolling rhythm. Hood also drops his own original material with "He Can Save You (Re-plant)", where a preacher man-style vocal is laid over a hammering, grainy rhythm and rickety back beats.
Metacentro (Ben Long & Oliver Way remix) - (6:28) 130 BPM
Review: Terranova previously put music out on Bulletdodge and De-Konstrukt, but has really risen to prominence thanks to a string of EPs on ePM. Forma Mentis, his latest outing for the London label, shows why he is gaining so much traction. On one hand, there's the spaced out groove of "Madama", where he utilises organic percussion and dubby undercurrents to create a wonderfully tripped out arrangement. In contrast, "Metacentro" is a menacing, throbbing techno track that shimmers and shakes with a sense of foreboding. Ramping up the intensity is the Ben Long and Oliver Way remix of "Metacentro", where the pair drop a spiky, broken-beat interpretation.
Review: Having released on labels such as Blueprint and Planet Rhythm, the mysterious Gotshell debuts on ePM. Not much is known about this producer, but as "Aswan" demonstrates, he is adept at striking a balance between the visceral and esoteric - in this instance with a dense, rolling rhythm and sharp percussion proven a backing for eerie synths. On "Fayum", there is an absence of musical sounds, with a grungy, grinding bass and firing hats articulating a particularly rugged take on club techno. "Coptos" completes the release, with hammering kicks and cold, building bleeps making for a particularly mechanical but powerful peak-time bomb.
Also Sprach Zarathustra (Zar remix) - (6:07) 128 BPM
Review: London-based digital distributors and press people EPM continue their label adventure with this cheeky release. Zarathustra is already well-known to film fans as the soundtrack to the unforgettable Kubrik work "2001: A Space Odyssey", but this is the first time that composer Richard Strauss's epic orchestral composition has been dragged onto the dancefloor. In the wrong hands, it could have been a cheesy disaster, but thankfully Italcimenti fuses it with a bubbling bassline to make a cheeky but unforgettable pop dance track. Zar's version is even better; pushing the distinctive orchestral sound into the background, he delivers a spacey but dancefloor-grounded Italo groove that would make Alexander Robotnick proud.
Review: The veteran UK producer Paul Mac is enjoying a renaissance at the moment and Drums & Breaks is a reminder about why he is held in such high regard. The title track is based against the backdrop of a pulsing rhythm and crunchy beats, but it's the shimmering, trancey synth, combined with a groovy filter that give the arrangement so much impetus . "Doubts Remain" meanwhile, is a classic 90s techno track, its surging chords and hissing percussion reminiscent of vintage Ian Pooley. EPM have also commissioned on point remixes of the title track: G Flame's version is a compressed, chugging affair, but for those who want a throbbing, acid-fuelled remix, head straight for the Advent vs Industrialyzer reshape.
Review: Unlike many of his peers, veteran UK producer Paul Mac excels at the album format. Previous long-players Old School Former Pupil and Push Came to Shove have afforded him the opportunity to showcase his versatile approach, and Insomnia is no different. The rolling, loopy groove of "Disc Elecronique" and the stripped back rhythms of "Driven Points" prove that he's still got an intuitive dance floor feeling, while the dramatic string stabs of the title track and the evocative chords on "Old" see him bring the Detroit narrative to clubby techno. But Mac is not just about copying existing narratives and the chord-heavy, filtered groove of "More Disco" represents a new mutant strain - dubby, disco techno.
Review: Paul Mac is one of the UK's real techno veterans, a producer with a sizeable back catalogue spanning a variety of sounds. For this EP, a taster for an album of the same name, he focuses on deep, Detroit techno, but with a twist. The title track is a driving affair, but Mac lends it a musical sound with evocative, breezy chords combined with dramatic string stabs. "Undoubted" sees him go down a more tracky route and its heads-down groove veers close to militaristic, but he keeps it on the right side thank to the clanging drums and crashing percussion. Marcel Fengler also contributes an excellent, wobbly bass-led version of "Insomnia".
Review: Mark Broom should need no introduction, a legend on the UK electronic music scene, he is internationally renowned for both his production capabilities and outstanding DJ skills. It's no wonder that his tracks have graced the likes of Ifach (with Baby Ford), Blueprint, NON Series, M-Plant, Material and more. Not to mention his collaboration with James Ruskin as The Fear Ratio. "One Sound" is adrenalised and powerful techno that is so precise in its restraint: geared for some real tunneling moments on the dancefloor. The remix up next by Midwest hero DJ Hyperactive injects far more fury and futurism into it: perfect for the peak time transition. Finally "Myth" gets those Mr. Hood vibes happening with powerful in your face cyclicality and those mandatory claps on the kicks: wicked!
Review: This is the second part of a trilogy that Mark Broom is releasing on ePM. The techno veteran's ear for crafting straightforward but effective tracks clearly has not diminished over the years and the title track presents the listener with a stab-heavy arrangement, played out against the backdrop of heavy kicks and niggling percussion. "77" sees Broom take influence from tracky US house, riding a shuffling, looped groove to infinity, while "LX" continues in a similar vein, led by chiming piano keys and an insistent, filtered rhythm. Striking a balance between house and techno, ePM have recruited Gary Bek to remix the title, which revolves around an organ stab and a rolling, looped arrangement.
Review: "Z Beats (Mix 1)", which starts this release, comes across like a slightly less intense relative to Robert Hood's classic The Pace. Firing percussion and insistent synth stabs set out the tone for Broom's latest release on ePM; on the second mix, the UK techno veteran uses a more gnarly bass and rasping hats to create a visceral sound. Truncate turns "Z Beats" into a linear, chord-heavy affair that tones down the intensity but doesn't lose sight of the club-friendly approach thanks to its snappy percussion and morse code tones. Rounding off the release and a hugely successful year for Broom is "Ot", a chord-heavy looped track.
Review: "Stained Glass Shadows" is taken from Oliver Way's recent debut album and this remix package features three prominent US artists. First up is Robert Hood: although he is working under his own name, his take leans heavily on the Floorplan sound through the use of spine-tingling organ playing and a powerful bass. Esteban Adame's version focuses on deep house, and its swirling synths and strings would not sound out of place on a label like Sistrum. Last but certainly not least is DJ 3000's interpretation, where the seasoned Detroit producer lays down a hypnotic chord sequence and rolling groove that will get even the most reluctant dancer emerging from the shadows.