Reviewed this week
Berlin legend Dietrich Bergmann aka Terranova has sure found his comfort zone on the Kompakt imprint, where he's presented three albums and nearly a dozen EPs over the last several years. All of these tracks on the Singularity EP are inspired by a current fascination with artificial intelligence and robotic technology and features three collaborations as well as two originals. From the moody dancefloor drama of "Let It Fail", the beatless ambient adventure of "Powergrid" or the slinky and melodic tech house of "Escape Ism" that builds with tension and suspense - it's another brilliant release by the artist formerly known as Fetisch.
Fresh from reworking Remake's 1992 progressive house cover of Vangelis' "Blade Runner" theme, Maceo Plex returns to the Ellum Audio family he co-founded with Alta in 2011. This time round, he's got company, too, with veteran Texas outfit Paradigm Shift (whose "Requisition" was featured on Plex's recent Fabric mix CD) lending a hand on title track "Mutant Pulse". It's a typically atmospheric, peak-time-friendly affair, with trippy female spoken world vocals weaving in and out of an alien techno groove and spine-tingling pads reminiscent of the Moby classic "Go". "Mutant Radio" is an altogether darker and more hypnotic interpretation, with spaced-out stabs and ghostly chords accompanying Plex's fuzzy, on-point grooves.
With a new artist album that embodies his sensuous deep techno sound due for release, Derek Carr's star is firmly in the ascent. However, on Pioneers, he shifts his focus somewhat. As its title suggests, "Acid Bath' is a jittery 303 workout, albeit one that is led by a bouncy bass. Similarly, on "Hanging on a String", the Irish producer drops tough drums and a linear rhythm, all the time tempering this harder sound with one of his trademark sweeping string sequences. He also reverts to full-blown deep techno on "Athenia" and "The Pioneers", where breezy synths and symphonic melodies unravel over wide-eyed, electronic grooves.
In the years since the initial success of Azari & III, the former has embarked on a solo career where he's released a handful of underground classics under the name Dinamo Azari. His new project (the first as Azari) fuses the commercial accessibility of his past with his masterful knowledge of the dance music underground. The result is "Gotasoul', featuring vocals from James Baley and Mixhell on the TB-303, which channels the vibe of classic acid house while instilling a truly modern edge. Remixes come courtesy of Aquarian: whose Umami '93 Remix is a bangin' techno rendition that borrows from the best of early '90s rave hallmarks in the vein of Shed or Tuff City Kids, while the Vibe Lords remix goes for a more mellow tech-house vibe.
Appleblim teams up with the Middle Eastern label Boogie Box once more for some hybridized explorations on the cutting edge of soundsystem music. "Vurstep" is a wildly psychedelic banger that keeps the rhythms broken while the sound design levels tap into the same delirious vein as his ALSO work with Second Storey. "Dream Wisdom" takes things in a smoother direction, riding on laid back breaks and plush threads of melody in a vintage ambient techno style. Shed steps up to remix "Vurstep" and delivers one of his pointed masterclasses in stripped, UK-leaning techno, and then Forest Drive West trips the whole thing out with a heavily dubbed meditation.
The fifth instalment of this split release series gets off to a raucous start: Alex Stein's "Gojira" features an ominous bass and the kind of nocturnal synth stabs that could be the soundtrack to curfew in a bleak dystopia. Olivier Giacomotto's "Eake" is more restrained, but it does feature what sounds like a hyena yowling at regular intervals over its blend of percussive rhythm and morose bass. It's only a brief respite however, and on Distale's "Tantal", a pounding techno groove unravels to the sound of ominous chords and a buzzing bass. Oliver Huntemann deserves props for supporting new artists through this series - and the Senso boss is sure to especially proud of the closing track, the chilling "Full Of Magic" by Murat Uncuoglu.
Paranoid London met the larger than life DJ Bubbles at the Sunset Campout in California last year, after giving him a pair of socks to pad his bra out. They all decided that they should make a track together but right before it was meant to happen - Bubbles was murdered in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. To date the crime remains unsolved. They decided they had to make the track, taking some audio from his Facebook account then adding their usual repetitive drums and acid - the result is "The Boombox Affair". All profits from the record are going to two charities in San Fran that were close to Bubbles' heart. Finally, this record is a celebration of his life and the diversity of our culture, at a time when we all need reminding that dancing itself can be an act of subversion and revolution.
DEPF comes through with the Sapyens label's sixth outing thus far, touching down with some seriously ethereal bass vibes. Going beyond the regular formulas, DEPF's first tune, "Relic", has sharp, edgy bass at its core but the emotion and mystique comes from the smoky haze of the synths circling above it. "Monolith" is a sharper, moodier tune that blends drums and bass into an imperceptible cocktail of sonics, while the Squane remix of "Relic" transforms the original cut into a more dance-centric joint, adding in a subtle 4/4 structure to give it the right kind of movement.
Alan Fitzpatrick's label has put out music by household names like Gary Beck, Darius Syrossian and Sasha, but it also deserves praise for releasing Vortex. The work of upcoming producer A.S.H, it's not hard to understand its appeal. The title track is a rolling tribal groove that unfolds to the sound of jungle sub-bass and sinister, building riffs. On "Stranger Things", the newcomer also impresses; led by niggling percussion and a tearing rumbling bass, it maintains a menacing edge despite the use of shimmering chords. According to Fitzpatrick, there's plenty more to come from A.S.H - for fans of effective warehouse techno, it's great news.
Suspended Animation is Phase's second release on Token this year and continues one of the longest-running partnerships in contemporary techno music. The Belgian imprint has been home to Ashley Burchett's music for well over a decade, and as, this EP demonstrates, continues to support his varying takes on dance floor techno. Fittingly, "Suspended Animation (Stroke B)" is a fast-paced, pumping rhythm, powered by a sleek, pulsating bass that supports trancey hooks. On the "Stroke C)" version, Burchett opts for a slower, more heads-down approach. The bass is dense and darker, and the use of a breathy vocal sample adds to the sense of mystique.
When a veteran like Sven Vath continuously plays your tracks, you know that you're doing something right. Rico Puestel provided Vath's label with three killer Eps last year, and he follows this salvo in style with Equity. The title track is a mesmerising mixture of rough, tribal drums and tranced out but somewhat sinister rave stabs. Like Caravel, Puestel's previous outing on Cocoon, it is destined to be played out at big rooms. "Immunised" is just as potent, with the fast-rising producer fusing a pulsating electronic groove with steely percussion and repetitive rave hooks - exactly the type of wild techno that Puestel's patron loves to spin.
Scuba's socially conscious SCB side-project continues to impress with its latest missive. "Traffic on the Hyperway" is a pulsating, electronic groove that resounds to filtered percussion and tough kicks. Elsewhere on the release, the Hotflush owner's material gets the rework treatment. Rebekah turns "Intelligence Fetish" into a pummelling, broken beat workout, its lone bleeps and steely drums conjuring up a bleak atmosphere. Isaac Reuben's take on the same track resounds to a break neck tempo and is powered by insistent kicks as well as some atmospheric drops. Meanwhile, rounding off the release in a more reflective approach is a new version of "Caibu" from the SCB album of the same name, where spiralling acid lines suggest a slightly more optimistic vision of the future.
Portable Minds boss and a stalwart of James Zabiela's Born Electric imprint, British rising star Jody Barr makes his debut on Sasha's Last Night On Earth with a massive new EP. This follows up a the terrific "Amae" by New York City's Reed Rackley aka Baile last month. The London by way of Berlin-based Barr demonstrates he's quite confident at creating sturdy straight-up techno like on "Filtered Images" as he is at making sleek and bold acid house like on "Marlon Brando".
Pan-Pot have been focused heavily on promoting other artists on their label, so Weltlinie is a welcome release from Second State's owners. The title track is a high-paced tribal affair, with a rolling rhythm underpinning shimmering synth lines and dank chords, while a similar approach is audible on the skipping percussion and shuffling drums of "Exzentrisch". Both tracks show that when it comes to funky techno, few artists do it better. By contrast, both "Zeit" and "Startphase" are heavier: the oppressive bass on the latter is so powerful that it will make the listener gasp for air, while its break down exudes pure menace. The former is a bleak, modern take on 90s trance - providing proof that Pan-Pot need to release music more frequently.
London label Smiley Fingers has signed up an artist with a difference for its latest release. Hathor Libra, real name Cristian Comes, is inspired as much by IDM and techno as he is by deep house. This melange is audible on "Reconditum", where light melodies and tingling percussion are underpinned by a growling, frazzled bass. On "Stratos", the Italian producer also deploys a powerful bass, but on this occasion, it swaggers menacingly as it is accompanied by cold melodies. The title track offers further surprises: Comes again looks to use a pumping low end, but it's the eerie hooks, epic builds and unpredictable break downs that really impress.
For its fourth release, RTCT makes an inspired choice. Crisco and Chupacabra may come from opposing ends of Italy, but both are united when it comes to their love of deep house, techno and even a side-serving of garage. On "Exodia" and "Turf", the pair tap into the atmospheric end of 90s UK techno and the gentler end of 2-step to create bubbling, evocative grooves. "Motrola" follows in a similarly widescreen vein, but in this instance, the aesthetic is underpinned by a warm Detroit techno rhythm. While "Endless Summer Dream (Asleep)" sees the pair up the ante thanks to some squelchy acid, their focus remains on dreamy, melodic dance music, audible on the breathless break beats of "Endless Summer Dream (Awake)".
Pushmaster Discs head-honcho, Mattia Trani, lands on Marco Faraone's Uncage imprint, which means that we are being supplied with quality techno tracks that have been created with the sole purpose of getting people to dance. "Collider" is a weighty, bass-heavy 4/4 number complete with a metallic swarm of sounds for maximum impact, and "Arachnide" follows with a much darker, moodier, more ethereal approach. Then check the woozy, acid-leaning remix of "Collider" from fellow Italian, Donato Dozzy, who unsurprisingly reveals a beautifully crafted dancefloor gem, while "Pulse Pattern" tear the roof down with an endless loop of outer-space euphoria. A recommended EP, with that killer Dozzy reinterpretation.
Despite having just two Eps to his/her name, JLTZ is a name to watch out for. The title track on this EP is a deeply hypnotic affair, shrouded in clanging, metallic chords and supported by a dubbed out groove. On "Anxiety", the mood darkens, as the producer drops pounding kicks and eerie, textured filters. "Insomnia" sees JLTZ retreat to the same kind of hypnotic sound as "Paranoid", albeit with a stepping rhythm providing support, while closing track "Dejection" is reminiscent of the throbbing, snaking techno of Mike Parker. Underpinned by slivers of metallic percussion, it brings this impressive Ep to a close in style.
Having put out material on Sasha and Yousef's labels, Vonda7 now delivers a three-tracker for Radio 1 DJ Monki's label. The title track is a bouncy tech-house affair. Featuring a combination of soulful vocals with squelchy acid lines, tough kicks and surging chords, it sees Vonda7 manage the rare feat of making underground dance music with a catchy edge. On the London Summer version of "The Choice Is Yours", Vonda7 does it again: Diva Ladee Chico's spine-tingling tones unravel over a building cacophony of acid and an old school UK house bass, while the focus shifts to a more murky acid sound on the '90s on Acid' version.
Having DJed for two decades, Jeffrey Hek and Jimmy van de Geijn decided to bring their vast experience behind the decks to the studio with the establishment of Deep Dimension. On "So 1992", the pair's rave background shines through as an MC raps over a pounding techno rhythm that's powered by a huge hardcore bass. "Cold Rush" is also steeped in rave culture, from its Frankfurt Trax referencing title to its bone-crushing drums and bleak waves of acid. "Generation X" is just as intense, with the pair opting to unleash layer upon layer of rave hooks and breathy female vocals over a tough rhythm. Rounding off the release is the wonderfully catchy break beat of "SpaceSjaal" ('92 UK Rave edit)" - no wonder everyone from Joseph Capriati to Dax J supports their music.
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