Sunday, May 17, 2009

Urban Tribe - Social Engineering


With Social Engineering, Sherard Ingram's Urban Tribe project has joined this small elite. While "Sabotage Clique" is a dense, intense, bleepy electro breaks affair—inspired no doubt by a Stingray DJ set—"Gencon" sees Ingram step back in time with spacey, wide-eyed synths, similar in sound to Brown Album-era Orbital.
The atmospheric "Gencon" also serves to set the mood for Ingram's coup de grace, "Her." Like most great pieces of music, it contains just a few elements, but the buzzing acidic riffs and jarring breaks combined with a soulful female vocal singing "my fantasy" on repeat has a special, albeit intangible quality. Maybe it's Kenny Dixon jnr's influence—whom it is rumoured will be accompanying Ingram on tour later this year—but irrespective of its background, "Her" shines brighter than any star in the firmament.

Sven Tasnadi & Juno6 - Leipzig EP


Sven Tasnadi and Juno 6 have both previously released on liebe*detail proper. (Tasnadi has even gotten the rare honor of doing it twice, something that few producers can claim.) Here, they find themselves in tandem for the second time after a somewhat disappointing first outing on Cargo Edition. Unlike that 12-inch, Lepizig is a monster: "Tranquillo" is deep house par excellence, folding sax, flute and organ into a contagious groove that breaks slightly. As its title suggests, it sounds laidback, but also clearly labored over. Unlike the Oslo/Cécille style, this favors song form just as much as groove, building things up neatly and breaking them down just as carefully.
"Hotel Seeblick," meanwhile, drops its two chords over and over and over again, waiting for epiphanies to occur in its audience. They do, but only once the just-as-simple two note bassline underlines things while wet synths, persistent tech house rhythms and what sounds like a roving saxophone/siren carry us through the stereo field. Marko Fürstenberg's remix of the same is a pounding tune, perfect for the warehouse and melodic enough to satisfy the home listener too. All in all, a great little package from a great little label. What more could you ask for?

Reboot - Ronson


The b-side to Boot's debut 12-inch on Cocoon works within this framework, building a steady groove that adds and subtracts with aplomb, taking in plenty of elements throughout before the kick drum arrives, the bassline slides in and everything glides along effortlessly. Like his last few 12-inches, it's nothing special to the home listener's ears, but presumably the jocks will find use for it when they've run out of options of how to get from A to C.
This being Cocoon and all, though, the A side is the track worth attending to.

O/V/R - Interior


Interior may not be as extreme as either producer's back catalogue, but it does expertly use some of the sounds and many of the production techniques that are common to their work. The title track has a measured pace, but its panning, repetitive groove is underpinned by heavy kicks that give it an edge. Likewise, panel beating drums and raw acid licks provide the clubby "Fallen Night" with an unspoken sense of menace.
"Rapid Eye" shows again that the devil is in the detail; its deep, dense, unrelenting rhythm populated by bursts of steely percussion guarantee the end result is dynamic rather than monotonous. Interior is nothing revolutionary, but at a time when the re-emergence of harder techno threatens to be railroaded by big room bluster or, worse still, trance indulgence, the dark side is safe in these veterans' hands.

Ben Watt - Guinea Pig (Remixes)


Koze takes up the B-side of this release, while M.A.N.D.Y. and Smallboy take care of the A. It's a functional dance floor-ready tech house rework that doesn't try to do all that much and succeeds in its modest aims. Utilizing those same bells as rhythm and melody, the remix glides along with a minimum of fuss, hitting its marks effortlessly. Why you would want to bring it home to listen to, though, I have no idea.

The Subliminal Kid - To the South


Peder Mannerfelt has been releasing music since the late '90s—initially as Markus Enochson and more recently under this guise—but "To the South" ventures further back in time. Inspired by the period when Chicago house and Detroit techno started to cosy up to European rave, Mannerfelt's interpretation of early '90s elements using modern production techniques is not just impressive, it sounds unlike most contemporary techno.
At a time when many producers are trying to imbue their work with a sense of dread and squeeze every drop of bass-heavy darkness from the studios, "South" wears a big smile as spacey rave riff encircles raw, 303-tinged drums and sharp, hissing percussion. That's not to suggest that Mannerfelt has opted for pastiche or has merely sampled the hell out of a Network or Nu Groove compilation; a rolling, pulsing groove underpins his creation, its understated presence nonetheless providing the impetus for DJs to play it.
Label owner Matt O'Brien's remix follows the same logic; while his dubby, rolling beats are even more submerged, they are also undeniably propulsive and power a darker, dramatic riff that recalls rave luminaries like Cubic 22 and Set Up System. Here's hoping that "South" enjoys the same long shelf life.

Jamie Jones - Summertime


Before you stepped off the plane in Miami, you could almost hear Jamie Jones' "Summertime" soundtracking this year's WMC. A natural vocal hook whose only real intelligible moment is one that screams a word that everyone wants to hear, a bassline that won't quit and pleasing stabs: What more did you need? And that's exactly what happened: As you made your way from party to party, inevitably a DJ would drop the tune—oftentimes more than once, as DJs arrived to gigs unaware of what had been played before they had gotten there.
It didn't seem to bother audiences, though: Each and every time the trippy, hypnotic anthem was aired hands would go in the air and the crowd would get noticeably more animated. (This was true even as the week neared its completion.) Thing is, the track isn't quite the normal hit. Jones hit a populist vibe, and successfully kept it weird enough to keep the purists happy as well.
B-side "You! may be forgotten here, but it shouldn't be: The track utilizes the deep house boom-tchk template, but adds enough sonic elements to keep things from groove-based boredom. And, by "You!"'s end, it turns out that it was almost more interested in the vocal sample repeated the titular phrase than anything else. The Mannheim kids could take a lesson from Jones: Hit the groove, then make sure you add enough to make sure they'll come back for more.

Italoboyz - Bla Bla Bla


Italoboyz have a formula. And in music—like math—each time you plug a different number in, you're going to get an entirely different result. Take the two sides of the duo's latest for Mothership: "Bla Bla Bla" takes advantage of the formula, while "Skandito" falls victim. It's a fine line, of course, but in listening to their previous work you can easily hear how it works—and irritates.

Minilogue - Animals Remixes


For a duo as singular in sound as Minilogue, it's rather fascinating to hear how three top producers can twist Marcus Henriksson and Sebastian Mullaert's excellent title track from their 2008 double album into something very much their own. Minilogue's original was the penultimate track on the first disc of Animals, and it sat there for obvious reasons: It rung out as the beginning of the album's denouement, an exhalation after the previous ten tracks and their frenetic pace.
Free of any such contextual concerns, Luciano pours the tune into his ever-identifiable tribal minimal lacquer, adding bits and bobs along the way to give it a unique form. The sonic highlight here is undoubtedly when Minilogue's original melody tentatively peeks its head out from beneath the groove, eventually rising up to overpower everything in its path. Tolga Fidan's approach is similar, but works at a slightly slower pace and with a vocal that might distract you from the fact that not much is going on at all. Given the effortless nature of the remixes accompanying it, Fidan sounds like he's trying too hard here, ultimately failing to step out of Luciano's long shadow.
Brendon Moeller's Beat Pharmacy moniker turns up for the final rework on the vinyl version of this package, and plays up the original's Cobblestone Jazz-like qualities to the hilt. Like the trio's greatest moments, it builds slowly—hinting, feinting—before unleashing its full cosmic funk. Excellent stuff.

Guy J - Shaman


Among the number of renowned Israeli producers to be influenced by the fertile late '90s Tel Aviv scene, Guy J is perhaps the most commercially-minded of the bunch, crafting progressive tracks that aim for the big room first and the headphones later. J's debut album on Bedrock last year typified his approach of blending the most palatable elements of prog, trance and house into a mainstream stew. It's clear, though, that there other sides to J's sound that have been unexplored thus far. Take "Shaman," for example, which starts out like a normal little house track before getting taken over by a shimmering synth solo that utilizes all of J's knob-turning abilities. Filtering it mercilessly throughout the barely-there five minutes, it's a striking tour de force that melds progressive and electro into something that should please fans of both genres—and more.
With the ridiculous synth solo as material for remixers, it's interesting to see how each producer deals with it. Mohan smooths things out into a slow-burning deep mix that despite its attempt at histrionics fails to take off. Cari Lekebusch, meanwhile, pushes the tempo and garners a momentum that rewards the small build-ups with solid pay-offs. To these ears, though, the gem here is available only digitally: Lontano cuts up the wild synth pattern and builds a yearning, epic number that even shoehorns in some Japanese koto for good measure. It's a stunner, and deserved to have the vinyl treatment.

Maetrik - Envy


Minimal techno is all about moments. The addition of a bass kick here, a snare tick there and, in Maetrik's case on "Envy," a little bucephalus bouncing ball finding its way down a staircase over and over and over again. Minimal may not be the best word to describe "Envy," as there's a lot going on within its self-contained world. Malformed pieces of static, cavernous kicks and, in between sharp intakes of breath, a voice repeating the title. Like label owner Jeremy P. Caulfield's work, it's exceptionally tight, resolutely mechanical and impeccably arranged.
"Envy"'s effortless groove is paired up with the almost awkward stomp of "Sweet Lovin'." The track is once again full of the same sonic odds and ends of its predecessor, but here they're employed in the service of an unfunky beat. Relief comes in the form of a massive bassline, but despite the lovely hook and ascending synth that sidles up alongside it, it ultimately fails to transcend the lacking rhythm that undergirds it.

Ahmet Sisman - Esraj EP


Sisman's devotion to acoustic instruments and tribal minimal is reminiscent of Vakant, but the Turkish-born producer is much more straight-forward in his sound, preferring overt hooks over ones that you have to dig for. Call it Vakant pop, but there's something to be said for "Saire" or "Loune" where you can actually coming away whistling the tune afterwards. (Good luck with that, though.) The latter is a vinyl exclusive and it's a stunner, with ominous strings playing up against their pizzicato counterparts in its final moments, making the ten minutes it takes to get there well worth the wait.
"Uzak" is the other bomb here, holding two steady vocal samples throughout as the pounding drums and various sound effects play out over top. Like the other three tracks here, it's as much the journey as it is the destination: Sisman like his Vakant peers are crafting worlds in which to live that are as rapidly changing, slightly disorienting and utterly beautiful as our own.

Freund Der Familie - The Sark Remixes


After some pressing plant delays, the new Freund der Familie single finally hits the stores in glorious white 10-inch vinyl. If you're lucky enough to get the numbered special edition, that is. But don't let the aesthetics distract you from the quality music inside: Both Sven Weisemann and Marko Fürstenberg apply some serious atmospheric pressure to the dubbed out original with stunning results.

Jamie Vex'd - In System Travel EP


Opener "In System Travel" sounds like a queasy, spazzed-out afterthought to the aforementioned rework, similarly loose and spiralling, but a good deal calmer too, alluding as much to the jazzy ruminations of trip-hop stalwart Amon Tobin as to labelmate Boxcutter's synapse-melting neo-junglisms. Over on the flip, "Saturn's Reply" comes off like a bastardized, funk-fuelled take on the whole electro/glitch-hop crossover school, pitching fat splodges of '80s analogue bass against a jerky array of spliced breaks and fuzzy, day-glo synths. For a debut solo outing, it's frighteningly confident stuff.
But the real treat here is "Radiant Industry." A colossal piece of bass engineering guaranteed to slaughter even the nastiest of house parties (never mind suitably well-rigged nightclubs), it must surely rank as 2009's fattest (read: phattest) tune so far.

Tim Exile - Family Galaxy


"Family Galaxy" starts of in glitchy hip-hop territory, skipping reverse drum beats give way to rising chord progressions over which Exile sings about his journeys through the family galaxy, an ever-changing environment of uncertainty that nonetheless sounds welcoming. The track's structure adheres to the principles of the family galaxy which Exile outlines thusly, "Keep changing every day, don't stay the same or you'll be a fool." As the track goes on, the tempo is slowly turned up from lazy glitch-hop stylings to a techno-sounding four to the floor beat only to explode into frenzied breakbeat territory.

"I Don't Know Where I'm Going" is a wholly different type of journey. It's set off by looming but beautiful synths, which eventually crash into abrasive techno territory around the three-minute mark. Raspy metallic sounding riffs then roll along with the clunky beat while Exile repeatedly tells us that he doesn't know where he's going and that he doesn't care. As a listener one gives in to Exile's views and goes on his musical trip without knowing where it might lead you—even if that means paranoia-inducing techno funk or the mechanic drone of Exile's time-stretching and twisting his own voice.