UK producer Matt Cutler aka Lone delivers the final instalment in his Ambivert Tools series of EPs. Like previous editions, The London based producer borrows respectfully from classic house aesthetics while decorating them with a vibrant and contemporary edge - much like the tracks released on his acclaimed Magicwire imprint. The evocative and breakbeat driven "Pulsar" conjures up memories of the late '90s, sounding like an excerpt from Sasha & Digweed's seminal Northern Exposure series. "Oedo 808" goes down a solid electro bass route and the sensual latin house flair of "Blue Moon Tree" intoxicates you with its shimmering chord progressions and hypnotic bongo rhythms.
Jay Clarke's Blackaxon label welcomes a new name to the fold. Judging on the strength of Cosmic Borders, this is not the last that we will be hearing of Manchester's Yant. "Cosmic Borders (Interlude)" is a chilling piece of ambience, and it gives way to the peak-time, tunnelling rhythm of "Encode the Stick". Coming across like a mix between Mike Parker at his most hypnotic and Sandwell District at their grippiest, it's an impressive piece of techno. "Inner Circle" is more earthy and sees this new producer deliver a firing percussive workout, while "No One" is led by doubled-up claps and a clanging, metallic bass. It's an impressive debut EP.
Emerging artist Anna rounds off a remarkable year of releases - including an EP on NovaMute - with this second EP for Kompakt's sub-label. Like her fellow Brazilian artist Gui Boratto, "Remembrance" sees Anna fuse euphoric neo-trance hooks with a searing, epic bass and a stepping rhythm. The "Alt" mix is even more effective than the main mix thanks to its euphoric break down and wild, psychedelic build. The Barcelona-based producer shows a different side to her musical canon on "When I Am Only a Dream". Tougher and more stripped back than "Remembrance", it sees drop the kind of searing, acid-soaked minimal track that will slay big rooms and smoky basements alike.
Following last year's Where Are The People release, Addison Groove and Bim Sanga get together to deliver another Bags Inc release. Drawing on deep house textures and a ghetto 'work' sample, "D Question" is a tough, steely affair, designed with crisp drums and angular rhythms. "Seven of Nine" is more stripped back and sees the pair deploy a repetitive sample, albeit over a noisy, jacking groove. Changing tact again, the duo deliver "Bashton Valed", where a predatory bass underpins dreamy synths and strings that float over an acid backing. Rounding off the release is "Tanga Toll", which marks a return to a more pared back, jacking approach, albeit with the duo using a smart cut-up technique.
Earlier in the year, Marie Davidson signed a high-profile deal with Ninja Tune. She makes good on that contract, following a couple of killer singles with what could be her strongest album to date. After setting the tone with clandestine, tongue-in-cheek opener "Your Biggest Fan" - a creepy spoken word cut taking aim at stalker-line fans to the accompaniment of heavy analogue synth bass and creepy computer bleeps - Davidson giddily flits between elastic dancefloor workouts (the brilliantly sleazy "Work It" and mind-altering "Workaholic Paranoid Bitch"), attractive post-EBM instrumentals (the psychedelic and fizzing "Lara"), meditative ambient melodiousness ("Day Dreaming"), bizarre experimental weirdness (the suitable dystopian "The Tunnel"), and stylish analogue pop (the whispered vocals and off-kilter early morning funk of "So Right").
Prolific Australian producer Bell Towers is back, this time on DJ Haus' imprint with a bunch of solid cosmic house grooves. The Berlin (by way of Melbourne) based producer follows up some great stuff in recent times for Public Possession, Permanent Vacation and Hell Yeah with the neon-lit balearic house of "My Body Is A Temple" and likewise "My Body Is A Tempo" which is reworked by homeboy Andras (Dopeness Galore/House Of Dad) and ventures deeper into trippier territory.
Having released on a number of underground labels, De Vries now joins household names like Stephan Bodzin and Recondite with his debut on Afterlife, the label run by Tale of Us. Certainly, the Berlin-based producer deserve the spotlight: on the title track, he delivers a pulsating, spaced out groove that ebbs and flows majestically to the sound of hypnotic bleeps and blasts of white noise. On "Sciamachy", De Vries opts for a more spacey, tranced out arrangement, albeit one that is powered by rasping percussion and shiny synths. Rounding off this impressive debut on Afterlife is Common Sense People party founder Konstantin Sibold, who delivers a frosty, icy take on "Sciamachy".
With releases for esteemed techno labels like Komisch and Time To Express to his credit, Rekids might not seem like the most obvious home for SP-X. That said, Under New Light is part of the label's Special Projects series, which is designed to shine a light on underground artists. It gets off to a frenetic start with "Dystopian Lotus", where pummelling drums and SP-X's trademark snappy percussion underpin the kind of eerie synth sequence you might expect to hear on a Carl Craig record. "Breaths of Separation" is more frenetic and furious, with SP-X dropping lead weight kicks, pitch bent hats and gated synth stabs, while "The Orbiter" sees this highly talented artist return to the concrete drums and militaristic percussive volleys that pervaded on his previous Eps for a rousing climax.
Following on from two Eps on Livity last year, Forest Drive West drops his debut album. It captures the producer's unique fusion of techno, abstract sounds and jungle, and gets off to a frenetic start with the high-octane, percussive "Cut and Run". At the other end of the Forest Drive West spectrum is "Transmission", a deep, throbbing slice of techno and the mesmerising minimalism of "Circles". Apparitions also sees the UK artist flirt with sound scapes and abstract textures, typified by the dubbed out "Vertigo" and the moody sub-bass tones of "Phaze-Shift". Characterised throughout by Forest Drive West's distinctive sound design, it is one of 2018's finest long players.
United Arab Emirates based party and label Boogie Box are back with some remixes of shadowy German producer STL - who presented their inaugural release last year entitled Constructive:No Words Required. It is not often that we hear STL's music reworked, and it was not an easy process since the parts to the originals were unavailable (no stems) - resulting in the remixers having to work creatively with the stereo masters. The results however are astonishingly good, as heard on meandyou duo Juniper's dubs in particular. The first is a contorted expression in minimal house, while the second is a cavernous and dubby stomper. Similarly, British producer Fold's atmospheric perspective utilses generous delay and echo to cavernous effect, and ending with Munich based Jonas Friedlich's personal and evocative dub that's perfect for setting the mood early in the evening - or the afterhours alike.
Remixing Scuba's SCB project must be a daunting task, but Hammer and Mor Elian both rise to the occasion. Hammer's version of "Test Tubes" is led by a pulsating bass and epic synth lines that are inspired by horror disco and joyous Italo in equal measures. Meanwhile, Mor Elian's take on "Fishbowl" goes down a different route; underpinned by rough, rolling 808s and menacing low end, it reinforces the fact that the Fever AM founder is one of the most talented electro artists to emerge in recent years. The original version of "Fishbowl", also included here, is a reflective slice of deep techno, while on "Turquoise Shade", Scuba surprises again, this time with a mellow, blissed out house groove.
Holding Hands boss Desert Sound Colony (DSC) has stated that he has known Adam Pits for a long time. First as a fellow student (a few years below him) at high school, and later at a University in Leeds that they both attended. He is from the same crew as Breaka (Beat Machine/Stretchy Dance) so there must be something in the water up there DSC declares - because 'these guys are producing the best shit in town right now'. UK bass and electro crossover in bold fashion on "Socket Power", which is followed by an eerie darkside perspective by Junq up next - perfect for the stoned ride home on the night bus.
Fixmer follows Depth Charged, his 2015 album on CLR, with this new long player for Ostgut. While he has long been one of the leading producers of EBM-influenced techno, Cortex sees him navigate a path through more grungy, industrial sounds. There's the droning, stepping rhythms of "Shout In A Black Hole" and "Event Horizon", the latter led by eerie sound scapes, while "Fury", which is aptly named, sounds like a brutal, wired take on Jeff Mills. The ghostly swagger and paranoid vocals of "Accelerate" see Fixmer return to his EBM sound and "Expedition" see the French producer deliver a slower, more teased out take on this sound, but Cortex is a diverse affair that also includes the spooky ambience of "A Halo Somewhere" and "Something Invisible".
It may sound hard to believe, but Insanity is Tiger Stripes' first EP on Adam Beyer's label in almost a decade. However, he has maintained a close relationship with Drumcode; he has been a regular contributor to the Truesoul offshoot label and most recently, performed at the first Drumcode Festival. "Baby" shows why he is such an in-demand act. Fusing falsetto vocals with a menacing bass and rasping metallic drums, it's an underground track that can easily pass over to the big room. "Insane" is more functional and sees the German producer drop a moody, robotic vocal over a clanging, metallic rhythm, while "Too Deep (To Bear)" is more in the traditional Drumcode sound, as a massive, evocative filter and high pitched vocals unravel over a rolling rhythm.
The Schleissen series goes from strength to strength on Emotional Response, inviting another two esteemed luminaries in the field of ambience to indulge themselves on a long side of wax. Matthewdavid is a welcome addition to the series - the West Coast champion has been operating in all kinds of unusual realms for a long time - and he comes to this release with a new project entitled Mindflight. The resulting track "Sonos' loops and folds heavy washes of drone and feedback in a thoroughly stimulating bath of harmony. Firecracker affiliate HOLOVR meanwhile presents three different musings on the dynamics of vintage UK techno, all crooked beat formations and luscious synth strokes gazing into the future.
After a series of EPs for Second State, Michael Klein drops his debut album. While "Boot Sequence" is a measured, break beat affair, Snapshot is really all about Klein's dance floor prowess. It moves from the deep, spaced out house of "Dismantled Structure" into the banging, acid-heavy salvo that is "Flashes in Your Eyes", "100" and "Them Psychos". The German producer resurrects the spirit of rave on "Dirty Daddy" and the wild "Wall Licker". He follows this with a minimal approach on "Drink Those", a steely, stripped back affair that demonstrates his clever use of musical history to shape the future.
Accidental Jnr is Herbert's imprint for spaced out club EPs, and the latest artist to join the roster is Housemeister. With a string of albums and Eps for labels like Bpitch, Boysnoize and his own All You Can Beat imprint, the German producer has established a reputation for individualistic house and techno. This approach is audible from the get-go on this release and the title track is a slamming, rhythm-heavy groove peppered with vocal snatches and defer filters. It's like a heavier version of one of Herbert's own releases. In stark contrast are the tweaked abstract tones of "Der Kleine Konig", while on "Funk That", Housemeister drops a left of centre house groove that revolves around a slap bass. Factor in Herbert's dubbed out take on the title track and you've got an essential, uncompromising EP.
Vakant has been around for almost 15 years, but as its latest compilation shows, the Berlin label shows no signs of getting stale. The Evigt Morker take on Kenneth Scott's "Pranic Lift" is a case in point: based on a skeletal rhythm, glacial synths and beguiling bleeps shine through to create a beautiful deep techno track. Elsewhere, label regular Alex Smoke delivers a teased out groove and spacey chords on "Smivvy" and another familiar face, Tolga Fodan, drops the raw, bleep-heavy techno of "Lone". Most impressive though is the contribution of Anonym, the Detroit producer who has had a long association with the label: "Ghetto Jesus" is a vocal sample-heavy house jacker that is the furthest thing possible from Vakant's minimal roots.
Dekmantel scores a coup by signing US psychedelic pair Peaking Lights. Sea of Sand is a taster for an imminent album on the Dutch label, and it provides an intoxicating taste of what's to come. "Blind Corner" resounds to a throbbing groove, with Indra Dunis' vocals unravelling over the blissed out, textures, while on "Shift Your Mind", they trip the light fantastic with a percussive, bongo-heavy backing. "Hypnotized" sees the pair delver a slower, dubbed out arrangement. Keeping the listener guessing, "I Can Read Your Mind" is a wonderfully hypnotic, spaced out Italo Disco affair and "Noise of Life" sees Peaking Lights delve into dreamy electronic pop.
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.