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.

Capracara - King Of The Witches


DFA's bread and butter might be party-ready dance-rock, but these days it's their club 12-inch desserts that are likely to become the menu standouts. So if, for example, you found The Juan Maclean's new full-length a bit undercooked, rest assured you can safely turn your appetite towards Capracara's "King of the Witches," a stunning, sizzling hybrid of first wave house-techno, Warp-era IDM plonk and underground disco. Capracara handily pulls off a grand Frankenstein stitch, resulting in a genre-bending mutant that sounds less like a single conceit and more like a mini DJ set.

Spatial - Infra002 EP


Arriving in the least ubiquitous fashion possible and delivered with a little mystery thrown in for good measure is the latest 10-inch slice of garage-flecked, Detroit techno-suckling dubstep from the facially ambiguous producer, Spatial. Christening his productions with numerical monikers such as "90121" or "90113" may seem like another way to alienate anyone who isn't searching specifically for his work but, by not naming them after lost loves or some other nonsense your left with one thing to judge: the music.

Rustie - Bad Science EP


"Bad Science" might be the erratic, unpredictably glitchy dance floor stalker on here, quaking faces when its arpeggiated backbone comes reeling in from the left side of nowhere but "Tar" rings out like "Tempered"—Rustie's Southern hip-hop jam found on the flip to his Joker collabo—all deep 808 kicks interspersed with heavily phased and cleverly EQed percussion. Going heavy on the kick drum, he patterns his jagged bass riff around the end of each bar throwing in the odd "coin in" and "1UP" Nintendo sound effects before stretching out the scales with a taut synthesizer. "Shadow Enter" takes the computer game idea and runs with it, making the dripping sound effects of classic hacker film The Net's soundtrack bubble over his primitive bass work and human beatbox percussion.

The other tracks included here are versions of Rustie's "Zig Zag" release. A "reprise" sees Rustie take the seemingly endless winding synth spine of the track and underpinning it with huge booming kick drums. That unimaginative rework, however, is redeemed via Heinrich Mueller's "Gravitaional Equilibrium"take. One of Rustie's heavily Kraftwerk-influenced idols, Mueller adds a smattering of 303 and shimmers out a few other melodies in an effort reminiscent of Neil Landstrumm's latest output.

Andre Lodemann – You Never Know EP


 "You Never Know" has more in common with Radio Slave's "Bell Clap Dance" than any fluffy deep house you might hear Charles Webster (remixer of Lodemann's "Searchin'") offering up. And, indeed, if it weren't for the powerful piano chords late in the game, we might have had a dead ringer for "Bell Clap Dance"'s endless build/slightly watery clap template. As it stands, I wouldn't play them back-to-back unless you wanted to make the crowd want to skin you alive (or kiss you all over) for teasing them so horribly.
According to the press sheet, Lodemann says that "Where Are You Now?" mixes well with Ricardo Villalobos' "Uli, Mein Ponyhof" mix of Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald from late last year. It's unclear at the beginning how Lodemann ever connected the two, but once the simple bass and drum groove is interrupted by seemingly incongruous swarms of bees hidden inside his synths, all is revealed. I'm still not sure if this thing hangs together exactly, but Lodemann's force of will here is much like DJ Koze. You may not believe what is happening when you first hear it, but you also might find yourself too busy picking your jaw up off the floor to care.

Tony Lionni & Radio Slave - Berghain 03 Part I


Lionni's "Found a Place" rubs two loops up against one another for three minutes—one of disembodied vocals, the other a catchy piano. He fades out the piano loop halfway through, brings in another and then loops that for another two minutes while the vocals and a simple house beat pound away unawares. Needless to say, it's brilliant. Radio Slave's "Neverending..." is similarly striking, but focuses its sights on—per usual—the hypnotic power of one loop stretched out into infinity. At nearly 12 minutes, it's almost criminal that this man can hold your attention with a tiny descending bassline and the sound of a steampipe being hit with a velvet hammer. But that's exactly what he does. Two masters of minimalism in one place? Count me in.

Moody - Anotha Black Sunday



A1 Mamma's Hand
A2 ...During Soundcheck
A3 Anotha Black Sunday
B1 Desire
B2 Rectify

Donnacha Costello - The Only Way to Win Is Not to Play the Game


Costello is no pop producer, of course. The hooks here are minor-key and contemplative: "Waltz for Chet" pines with the best of them, while "Always a Why" leaves its plaintive synthesizer melody behind in its final minute for plucking synthesized guitars. "Closing Circles" even recalls the marimba minimalism of Steve Reich. The 20th century giant looms large over the proceedings here—much of the work on The Only Way to Win Is

Untold - Sweat / Dante


A-side "Sweat" sees buoyant, elasticized stabs of bass, pegged down by a tight 2-step shuffle, ripple jubilantly amidst a sprawl of vaporous Rolando-esque atmospherics. Gone are the jittery, semi-schizoid mannerisms of previous works, replaced by an altogether breezier set of dynamics that signal a shift towards sunnier climes. Notably, the painful introversion characteristic of so much recent UKG-flavoured dubstep is conspicuous in its absence. It comes as a welcome change.

"Dante" takes things further into Detroit-inspired territory, sounding not unlike Delano Smith given a UK underground makeover. Built around a brittle kick/rimshot play-off, warm subs and molten chords bubble incandescently in the background, seemingly unfazed by the clattering percussion and happy to pause here and there for breath. Dreamy female vocals only add to the carefree ambience. Much like the A-side, it's a quietly confident piece, imbued with a healthy sense of perspective and in no great hurry to impress anyone. As such, it's just marvellous.

Anton Zap - Outside EP


Moscow-based Jus-Ed protégé Anton Zap eases into a stint for the lovable Uzuri nice and slow, opening cinematically with suspense and foreboding. Gradually a lean down-tempo beat builds and some playful Detroit touches arrive, but "Spain" shows elegant restraint, and is all the more spooky and comely for it. "Alice Miracle" changes direction, sampling a discrete piano flutter, some vigorous strings and a downward-sloping bass line from Alice Coltrane's indeed miraculous discography.

The flip plays it straighter. "Mon 16.46" is insistent, futuristic house of excellent quality, with an addictive worming bass line, a haze of trembling pads, and minimal piano accents. The bright-eyed "Can't Wait for Snow" rounds out the set, showcasing Zap's flair for infectious whimsy. Sweet scales run up and down over a shiny electro base for something cheerful and grooving at the same time.

Kevin Gorman - Elements Part 1


Released as the first in a series of three concept EPs, Kevin Gorman's Elements Part 1 is practically a call to arms. Comprised of three original tracks alongside all their constituent parts (arranged comprehensively into fourteen tools), it's a bewildering collection of sounds, some interwoven, others bare and isolated. As a reviewer, I'm tempted to narrow my focus simply to three discrete tracks on display, each representing a different shade of deep, club-minded techno somewhere in the vicinity of Audion and Function, the most rewarding of which is the hypnotic, undulating "Cyclic," which seems custom-made for those still going on a Sunday afternoon.

Losoul - Slightly / Gridlock


"Ah, today seems different. It feels like we're going to have a quiet, uneventful and peaceful day." A vocal sample repeats these words a few times and then LoSoul's trademark drums kick in. These are familiar and reassuring drums, reminding you that Germany's Peter Kremier has been knocking out his unique brand of skeletal house for a remarkable thirteen years. The off-kilter percussion on "Slightly" is a direct descendent of classics such as "Soul Down" and "Raw Beauty." Despite the initial promise of an uneventful and peaceful day, there's a lot happening on this record: squeaky springs bounce like the busted shocks on some old pickup truck, a few whipping metallic sounds quiver in the background, and garbled vocal samples drift across the top. Each sound is carefully defined and given its moment to shine, fleshing out a playful song that gradually moves from initial cartoon slapstick into some serious robo-funk.

"Gridlock" is anything but gridlocked. The track races at a decent clip, propelled by a simple one-note keyboard stab and a wonderfully extended sub-bass. The dense percussion clatters along, peppered with a few scuffed-up vocal clips of laughter and the old standby pronouncement of "bass." One of Losoul's greatest powers is his ability to create minimal tracks that are neither gloomy nor academic, which is more difficult than it sounds. By putting a bit of spin on the tail of a chord or dropping in a brassy squiggle every few measures, his tracks stand out in a genre that's often joyless. Losoul's tracks usually grin from ear to ear, and "Gridlock" is no exception.

Robert Hood - Shonky In The Hood


The original—released back in 2002 as part of Hood's immense Point Blank LP—is an absolute stunner, and reason enough to pick up this record. A breathless piece of sleek, hydraulic techno, it conjures up utopian images of a mechanised, post-industrial future rid of today's grubby historical small print. Coming out at a relatively dry time for the genre, it reeked of class, and still does.

But what of Shonky's version? Quite frankly, it's a harmless, Ibiza-friendly update; nothing more, nothing less. The aforementioned samples—a glossy vocal and a swooping aircraft, both mildly inane—keep enough with the original to steer clear of trouble, whilst the housified percussion, fit with obligatory congos, lends the track a pleasantly bouncy feel. Drama is provided by a couple of tidy, well-placed drops, and the whole thing sticks together in a satisfyingly restrained fashion. All in all, it's a solid rework that (quite rightly) makes no attempt to supersede its master. For that Shonky deserves credit. As they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Dominik Eulberg - Sensorika


With a joint EP with frequent partner Gabriel Ananda in February and now this latest Traum EP, Sensorika, thankfully Eulberg's returning to his prolific ways. A-side "Aurora" is another of his crafty summons of dawn, a bit of slow-growth house that opens simply enough with dubby bass and pinpoint rhythms before revealing hidden pockets of melody. Eulberg's always made a virtue of patience, often building incrementally for six or seven minutes before unveiling its true center, and "Aurora" is no exception. As its fan-whirr synths and sturdy beat expand, he clears the air suddenly with a beautiful, Cathedral-top synth line and a melody that reminds me, briefly, of the sound UFOs emit in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, left alone in a brief ascent.

The b-side, "Sansula (oder der letzte Grund)" is a bit more utilitarian unfortunately. Atop a porch-front bell pattern and steady 4/4, Eulberg stalls after the first flickers of light. It's a reversal of method for the producer: its focal point emerges early, bound in the tight-wound castanets. For a producer so fingertip savvy in his construction of narrative, the track feels knuckled out, brute-fisted, for its delicacy on the surface, though the throb increases and the volume grows. Still, "Sensorika"'s worth seeking out for "Aurora" alone; few producers are so capable of sudden revelations, of brief glimmers of story and tale and detours concealed in seven thudding minutes of exposition.

Various Artists - Delsin 2.0 Remix EP 1 & 2


There are few labels that manage to maintain high standards for a few years, but in Dutch label Delsin's case, quality has been its byword since 1996. Although inspired by Detroit techno and electro as well as Chicago house, the imprint's strength lies in its roster's ability to reinvent these benchmark sounds. That roster is the other reason: Delsin has never been shy about welcoming new artists to the fold—and this remix project is a case in point. While veteran Dutch producer Steve Rachmad delivers a version of Quince's "For My Mr" that recalls the airy chord melodies of his Sterac project—underpinned by an electro bass and a rolling rhythm—Delsin has recruited new-generation producers Shed, Redshape and Quince for the other interpretations.

Quince's take on Taho's "Energy Field" is a dense dub techno track with the doubled up beats adding to the sense of claustrophobia, while Shed's take on the same track is a linear dubstep/techno shuffler, but Redshape steals the glory. Remixing Newworldaquarium isn't an easy task at the best of times, but the masked man defies expectations: opening to the sound of someone doing a spot of DIY in the background, the happy jazzy chords that follow suggest that Redshape's in a less menacing mood than usual—but then he lets loose one of his droning, grinding basslines and once again plays to the label's strength of mixing the classic and new.

Dario Zenker - Would Be Nice EP


The best tracks on Vakant are the ones that are overstuffed, yet still retain an ability to tell a story. Nearly everything on Vakant is overstuffed—that's never the trouble. Each artist seems to save their densest compositions for the imprint, filling the sonic field to the brim in an effort to overwhelm. But when Özer, Fidan, Kaden, et al. find a way to fit in a melody among the madness? Bliss.
That's the word I keep coming back to on the B-side, "
While Rain Gets Air," for Dario Zenker's latest effort for the imprint. It's got the usual tribal minimal stomp, but adds in expectant orchestral samples both droning and quick-hitting. Those same strings are present in flipside monster "Would Be Nice," but they're overlaid with shimmering tremors and what sound like an honest-to-God triangle hit. Both tracks—and "Blue Champa" for that matter—work their magic with stunning little melodies, but they also have a strange groove as well. The rigid bump of most Vakant releases is leavened here with basslines that quiver and shake quickly, adding some pump to the steady, pummeling regularity of the kick drum. Minimal. With a hint of funk.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mohlao – Ambrose

A recent string of impressive 12-inch offerings from the likes of Bovill, Murmur, Bvdub and, most notably, Quantec, have furnished London-based imprint Meanwhile with an enviable reputation for top notch dub house and techno. This—their 15th release—sees that trajectory not just maintained but extended; impressive stuff considering the culprit, Mohlao, is all but unknown.

"Ambrose" is a sombre piece of pitched down dub techno infused with a heavy dosage of ambient electronica (Delsin's 154 springs to mind) and just a smidgeon of laid-back house. Underpinned by a bright, thumping kick which very nearly overwhelms the more fragile elements around it, the track successfully steers clear of the kind of swampy post-BC aesthetics so abundant right now, coasting along at a moderate 120 BPMs, all sullen pads, washed-out synths and distant static. It's a resolutely downbeat affair, laced with a kind of hazy melancholy and suitable only for the mellowest of dancefloors, if any.

Those itching to pull shapes needn't worry, though: B-side "Individual," a shatteringly bleak, IDM-inflected electro lullaby, successfully marries the frosty ambience of Autechre-era UK techno with the bittersweet melodic palette of Gerard Hanson's E.R.P. output, and in rollicking fashion. Propelled by a bouncy, UR-friendly electrobreak, it's an exhilarating exercise in sustained emotion, steadily building over the course of its seven minute duration—aching squalls of synth intermittently staining a bed of wheezy gasps and twinkling bells—before gracefully unfolding into a quietly crushing, beatless finale. Dreamy and dynamic in equal measure, it's an almost perfect closing number, fit for any DJ capable (with what precedes) of doing it justice.

Frozen Border - Frozen Border 01

The trend for techno anonymity continues as a new series, Frozen Border, follows in the footsteps of the Wax, Equalized and Ancient Methods releases. Delivered in a black sleeve—the author has even forgone the ubiquitous hand stamp beloved of Hardwax-affiliated labels—the presentation compels the listener to focus solely on the music. Thankfully, this proves to be an entirely rewarding experience. The A side (or is it the B side?) is based on brutal bass tones underpinning ferocious hi-hats and pounding, grainy beats that are cut in and out of the arrangement to achieve maximum effect. Sounding like a combination of '90s Hood-style repetition with visceral Djax techno, the use of new production technology means that the end result is more polished and playable.

On the other side, the producer delivers another classic techno-inspired track. The ominous, menacing bass and soaring chords come across like Basic Channel jamming with Robert Hood and Claude Young's Missing Channel project. Hopefully though the slower pace, combined with its repetitive nature will endear it to house DJs looking for the ultimate tool.

DJ Hell - The Angst

Djuma Soundsystem - Bipolar

Peter Van Hoesen - Attribute One

Few upcoming producers have as high a strike rate as Peter Van Hoesen. The Belgian artist's Time 2 Express label might as well come with a "buy on sight" sticker, and his releases for Lan have been of a consistently high standard. What's most impressive about his music is his ability to sound utterly distinctive and forward thinking while using what sounds like just a few elements. Sure, there have been comparisons to the Berghain sound—the residents regularly chart his work and Norman Nodge even delivered a superb remix of Van Hoesen last year—but in understanding and appreciating his work, it would be as instructive to point to Peter's sound design work for theatre and mixed media as well as his deep understanding of techno's past.

Theorising aside, "Attribute One" builds on all of these influences and even makes a nod to the dubstep shuffle. A moody bass that seems to constantly ebb and flow, sometimes more intense, often less so, is joined by skipping percussion and a fragile melody that remains in the background throughout. "Below 30" is straighter and more focused on techno functionality, but here too, Van Hoesen's rumbling bass keeps changing, fluid but always visceral. MLZ provides the remix of "Attribute" and decides to go for the jugular. While it could be argued that it loses some of the original's subtle nuances, the truth is that the spiralling filters, jack-knifing hi-hats and evil acid sequence augment the original production. "Attribute" is more proof that 2009 is Van Hoesen's for the taking.

Michel Cleis - La Mezcla

Mutant Clan - Mutanism

Future Beat Alliance - Dark Passenger

Argenis Brito - Imminent

Mick Rubin - Fernweh EP

Bop - Song About My Dog / Random Thoughts

Viul - Summer's Wet Work Is Done

Ernesto Ferreyra - Siluetas

Mark Broom - Deal Or No Deal

Culoe De Song - The Bright Forest

2020 Soundsystem - Sliding Away (Johnny D Mixes)