Review: Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics”; Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP”; Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters”; Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP; Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere”

SOMA400_Slam_RotaryCatacoustics_CoverArtworkWebSince the early 1990s, a steady stream of select house and techno wells out of the Scottish city of Glasgow. The most substantial fountainhead has been Soma Quality Recordings, co-founded by techno household name Slam. Recently Soma presented its 400th release, which was reserved for the duo that established the label. The ep consists of two solid tracks, both clearly illustrating techno’s implied functionality. The steady pounding in “Rotary” is wrapped up in a menacing analogue synthesizer sound supplemented with hi-hats and sweeps while “Catacoustics” is much deeper, using bells, rattles and low bass to an entrancing effect. As this momentous release is a prelude to a new album by Slam, scheduled for October, we can rest assured Soma will continue to play their authoritative role in the scene.

DruckA producer closely associated with Soma and originally hailing from Glasgow as well is Funk D’Void. A while ago, he has teamed up again with Dave Tarrida, yet another Scotsman with years of experience producing music, for a release on the latter’s fresh label Autofake. The fun they had while working on this “Data Reader EP” is apparent and the result is a set of three coarse, raw, flipping acid tracks. Take for instance “Glow Blob”: a little mean dance machine that shoots off noises and samples in all directions while rolling firmly forward. The title track in turn, can easily be described as timeless, prototypical acid techno. Lastly, the raucous, over-the-top stomper “Discontinue” gets a rework by upcoming Spanish producer Miki Craven, who transforms it into an atmospheric cut not unlike most of Funk D’Void’s solo work.

dsr-h8-AAfter Dutch imprint Delsin went for a more house-orientated series of eps last year and brought out the superb “Cushion” by Erdbeerschnitzel, they are now pushing an equally exciting follow-up. It contains all the necessary ingredients for an Erdbeerschnitzel taste: intricately woven layers of sound, samples and instrumentation, an over-all slow tempo, an organic feel despite the use of software, several catchy melodies and a decent funk groove. These are true summer tunes; listening to the title track “In Ample Waters” will induce every house aficionado a similar feeling as a kid getting an ice cream on a hot day in June. The beauty of “Never Tilt” is in its artisanship of melodic structuring, a characteristic which is also present in the soft-paced and soulful “Yet Unfulfilled”, the only track on the record that includes vocals. The German once again delivers a work of real flair that’ll be on my playlist for the warm months to come.

HEIST005-1440Like Delsin, Heist Recordings is proudly based in Amsterdam. It is, of course, a much younger label run by the house outfit Detroit Swindle, but Heist has already got a fair share of attention with a few exceptionally strong releases. Its fifth ep is by fellow townsman Frits Wentink (actually Steve Mensink), a newcomer who holds a degree in Audio Design and who  is gaining status rapidly thanks to some decent production work on labels suchs as Triphouse, Shipwrec and Darko Esser’s Wolfskuil as well as to many club performances. This “Family Dinner EP” is in fact typical Frits Wentink material. Case in point is “Ligament” which has a heavy-thumping beat as a basis and gets its groove from a recurring filtered sample with a jazzy feel as well as a soulful vocal cut. “IF I Was To Gravy You’ is composed of similar elements and “Shrewd”, in turn, is an awesome garage house track, characterized by an even more efficient groove, very catchy synth lines and a cut-up vocal sample. Dutch singer Loes Jongerling, with whom the producer has worked before, contributes to “Sauce”. The piece has been built up around her voice, heavy percussive beats and some warm synth touches. All in all, Frits Wentink indeed confirms the buzz and Heist was right to sign him to their roster.

BAP032_Local_Suicide_-_We_Can_Go_Everywhere_CoverArtLastly, a promising debut comes from the Berlin-based German-Greek duo Local Suicide (Brax Moody and Vamparella) on the stylish label Bordello A Parigi, an enterprise from Rotterdam that specializes in vintage music as well as cinema and fashion. Both members of Local Suicide are very active in the music scene and have already established quite a reputation so this ep was long due. You’ll get the original version of “We Can Go Everywhere”, a catchy and poppy tune with clear influences form Italo disco and Balearic house that locks into your head right away, as well as three remixes. The Swiss from In Flagranti give it a live sounding esthetics by means of a funky bass line and some drums, while Mexican dandy Iñigo Vontier chooses an electroclash roll to emphasize the potential the track has for peak time use. Finally, Richard Rossa’s version is more of an electro disco dub that works perfectly. And now please excuse me because I have to get into these high-heeled dancing boots!

Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics” is out on Soma Quality Recordings since June 9th

Track list:
1. Rotary
2. Catacoustics

Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP” is out on Autofake since May 30th

Track list:
1. Data Reader
2. Glow Blob
3. Discontinue
4. Discontinue (Miki Craven Remix)

Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters” will be out on Delsin on July 7th

Track list:
1. The Ample Waters
2. Never Tilt
3. With Level Hopes
4. Yet Unfulfilled

Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP” will be out on Heist Recordings on July 7th

Track list:
1. Schrewd
2. Ligament
3. Sauce feat. Loes Jongerling
4. If I Was To Gravy You

Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere” will be out on Bordello A Parigi on June 24th

Track list:
1. We Can Go Everywhere
2. We Can Go Everywhere (In Flagranti Remix)
3. We Can Go Everywhere (
Iñigo Vontier Remix)
4. We Can Go Everywhere (Richard Rossa Remix)


Review: Patrik Skoog – “Exit Earth”; Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks”; Mendo – “Avalon”; Conforce – “Kinetic Image”

There was a time when dance music albums were simply a collection of four-to-the-floor tracks without much coherence, like two or three 12inches released in one package. However, for quite some time now a large amount of artists in the genre have crafted albums that are a consistent set of pieces, often with a thematic or at least a musical consistency and that are listenable in other places than a club too.

These days, mainly due to the emergence of the digital market and a change in the ways of music consumption, the album format has generally lost its importance to the single. One could easily expect dance music producers leaving the effort of creating an album and concentrate on a condensed output format. But this isn’t the case at all and the release of several interesting albums during these weeks confirms this point in a way.

PATRIK SKOOG EXIT EARTH draftSwedish producer living in Berlin Patrik Skoog just brought out his first album under his own name on Third Ear Recordings. The man’s long discography, starting at the end of the previous century, is a proof of his diligence and experience but until now, “Who Made Up The Rules” on Josh Wink’s Ovum Records (2011) was the only album on that list. It was released under his alias Agaric which he has been using most during the last years of his career so the fact that “Exit Earth” was done using his proper name is noteworthy.

Skoog now made use of a thematic approach: not only all track titles but also his sound palette reflect the topic of NASA’s two Voyager space travel projects in the 1970s. Of course the exploration of the cosmos is a classic techno idiom and possibly “Exit Earth” could have done without all this. On the other hand it neatly ties everything together conceptually.

The album contains slower, dreamlike tracks like “Inside Jupiter’s Eye” and the beautiful “Cluster 34”, dance floor material such as “Cygnus A” as well as some experimental parts as for instance “Voyager 1” or the closing “Radio Emissions”. Yet it never loses touch of its self-imposed running thread. Furthermore two specific characteristics stand out: firstly, the inherent emotive force of all tracks and secondly Skoog’s meticulous production technique and finishing which make “Exit Earth” a powerful whole.

Snuff Crew Behind The MasksIn lots of ways the German duo Snuff Crew stands for (a certain) tradition and the continuation of it. Having always stressed the heavy impact and influence which 1980s Chicago house, acid house and early techno had on them, their output – be it as producers or as a live act – has continuously been an emulation of those genres. The fact that they keep their identity hidden is in this respect in line with a certain custom in the scene and the title they chose for their third album, released by BPitch Control, refers to this.

However, “Behind The Masks” is not a true revelatory affair per se. The real names of the creators aren’t mentioned in the sleeve notes and that these personas stand for a flaming passion for old school house and techno had already been made clear. However new is for instance an abundant use of piano parts and, more generally, a recurring song-based structure. Take for instance “New Life” which is an utterly sweet Balearic tune, poppy even, featuring a good vocal by Rachel Low and totally having the feel of early 1990s Ibiza hit material.

The appearance of several top contributors is another remarkable feat. Kim Ann Foxman stars in “Tearing Me Away” while Chicago house legend Tyree Cooper completely gets down on the hip house party blaster “Work It Out”. Last but not least, Venetian male diva Hard Ton demonstrates on the catchy “Let Me Be the One” that he is most certainly one of the best house vocalists of today’s scene. Apart from these tracks, Snuff Crew also included decent stylistic exercises in acid – “Bass!” – as well as in electro – “What Is Electro?”.

But while the twosome’s production resulted in an album that, all its imperfections aside, has a very polished sound it is exactly this cleanliness that can be bothersome. As Snuff Crew proclaims to search for the perfect jack and appraises rawness, it is a pity this isn’t expressed more on a recorded album like they seem to manage perfectly while playing live. Also, their quest sometimes brings into being a fairly generic type of house; it works but may lack a face. Masks or not.

CR036_Mendo_Avalon_CoverArtworkWebGeneva-based David Mendo might not be a top name in house (yet), nonetheless he is a exceptionally skilled dj who has released a long list of 12inches, some on big labels such as Groove, Defected, Get Physical, Cadenza and Rekids. Now he presents his debut album entitled “Avalon” on his own Clarisse imprint. As Mendo is of Spanish descent, quite some of his influences, samples and rhythms are derived from Latin music. The combination with house has been tried and tested many times in the past and Mendo doesn’t really present us something radically new, yet the examples on this record testify that the concept still works, given that production is done properly.

Mendo shows he can take care of that. A piece like “Abstract” is a case in point: here, a good groove is accompanied by the melancholic Spanish vocals of Carla Krevey, an intense piano part, a well-placed guitar sample and some percussive sounds, creating a warm atmosphere. The mastery is definitely in the timing and in the auditory details which are a constant throughout the record. Some tracks give the impression of simplicity but after listening more often and/ or more closely their refinement becomes apparent.

Certainly, “Avalon” includes a few outstanding, restrained and balanced pieces such as “Libellule” and “Waterborne” but the Swiss also put in some floor bombs: “La Krika” and “Les Clochers de Belarus” are packaged as late-1990s deep house anthems and “Fever” is based on soulful but grooving disco. It is without doubt “Everybody Love” though that has the most explosive potential with its pure peak-time power and precision. But “Avalon” is all together a quality album which I certainly recommend.

Kinetic Image-FrontSomething quite different is the work of Boris Bunnik, known for his deep alternative techno as Conforce but also for his unremitting work ethic – which I don’t believe is because he’s from the northern Netherlands but more because he’s really passionate about producing. With “Kinetic Image”, his third album, he steers away from beat-driven and dance-inducing music and explores a domain of his musical realm that is darker and more subdued.

As Bunnik uses several artist names to distinguish between the different facets of his music, it is significant that he chose his Conforce moniker for this release on Delsin Records, perhaps indicating that he will take this part of his oeuvre into a new direction. Indeed, “Kinetic Image” isn’t a record you skip through, it demands complete immersion. Yes, it’s best to make time for it; most of us create a right setting and make accommodations for watching a movie so why not do something similar for certain music? I bet some people occasionally do and Conforce’s latest certainly asks for it.

During the trip he is offering, sounds are sparsely distributed along subterranean passageways. Once in a while wobbly and dubby patterns appear while high pitched bleeps are omnipresent. However sober the arrangement, it manages to evoke a thick cover; eccentric yet comforting. Conforce has created an all-encompassing experience in the form of a music album. It’s not fast and flashy, superfluous nor flimsy but it surely presents a treat for the mind.


Patrick Skoog – “Exit Earth” is out since October 25th

Track list:
1. Cluster 34
2. Saturnian Acid
3. Stereo/ Waves
4. Voyager 1
5. Voyager 2 (digital only)
6. Inside Jupiter’s Eye
7. Stay In Orbit
8. Time Won’t Come
9. Cygnus A (digital only)
10. Death Of A Pulsar
11. Radio Emissions

Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks” is out since October 25th

Track list:
01. Lights
02. New Life feat. Rachel Row
03. Move Me
04. Let Me Be The One feat. Hard Ton
05. Jack My Heart
06. Tearing Me Away feat. Kim Ann Foxman
07. Work It Out feat. Tyree Cooper
08. What Is Electro?
09. Bass!
10. Joy Of Jealousy

Mendo – “Avalon” is out since November 4th

Track list:
1. Mintro
2. Abstract feat. Carla Krevey
3. Clavelito
4. Everybody Love
5. Waterborne
6. Fever
7. Samba
8. Interlude
9. La Krika
10. Avalon
11. Rising Sun
12. Les Clochers de Belarus
13. Amazon
14. Libellule

Conforce – “Kinetic Image” will be out on November 18th

Track list:
1. Excess Mortality
2. Spatiotemporal
3. Temporary Reversals
4. Semantic Field
5. Scientific Trajectory
6. Underwater Settlers
7. Formerly Programmed Decisions
8. Abundance Of Selves
9. Optimum Pace
10. Anti-adaptive State

Review: V.A. – “Black Series 004”; Reeko w/ Architectural – “The Blue Album”

The holidays are over and as the music industry follows a cyclical movement, we can rely on the fact that a torrent of new releases is coming out in the current aftermath of Summer. After having survived all festivals, gigs, parties and concerts, it’s time again to focus your attention and spend your money on records and digital music files! I realize it’s been a while since I reviewed some new techno material, so here are some suggestions and more will follow before long.

APEW004_BlackSeries_CoverArtworkBWebFirst I would like to mention the fourth instalment in the ‘Black Series’ of the label Authentic Pew.  This modest record company was initiated at the beginning of 2012 in Chemnitz, Germany by Perthil & Aerts. The duo has been playing extensively in their home country and is getting more and more attention abroad as well, which I believe is completely justified. The ep consists of three original tracks of different artists (in fact all but one are collective efforts) and one remix by Perthil & Aerts themselves. Two producers from Paris working under the name of As Patria are responsible for ‘Arcan’ which is based on a singular, atmospheric groove that never gets boring thanks to the addition of several deep and haunting sounds.

Tomohiko Sagae’s ‘Chloroform’ on the other hand is not your typical sensation blocker.  Au contraire, it’s an industrial assembly of pounding beats, synchronised screeches and abrasive noises, generating a bodily response without fail.  On the A-side you’ll find a piece by Attac, a collaboration of Mallorca-based Angel Costa and Spanish twosome Attemporal, which is simply named ‘01’ and can be described as very decent though rather archetypal techno. Authentic Pew’s honchos reworked it into a metallic monster, all shiny chrome with well-polished details. ‘Black Series 004’ might not consist of the work of the most familiar names in the scene but it is nonetheless an outstanding ep.

Now that I’ve mentioned Spain, I should also bring up the large amount of quality releases that has come from the Iberian state during this year. A key in this tendency is the label PoleGroup which was set up by Oscar Mulero, Christian Wünsch, Exium and Reeko. Earlier in 2013, PoleGroup released an interesting album by Exium, a duo that normally produces and plays uplifting techno. For their ‘A Sensible Alternative to Emotion’ they experimented with slow tempos, dub inspired sounds and ambient-like backdrops. A short while ago the label issued another long-player from one of its founders: Juan Rico.

polegrouprecordings-018Rico produces under the guises of Reeko and Architectural and this record is taken as a collaboration of these alter egos. I believe this is quite a peculiar concept and since I loved Reeko’s ep ‘Passage #17’ that came out in February on his own Mental Disorder, I was curious to hear what ‘The Blue Album’ as it is called, would be like. All in all it is a very solid record, indeed combining slow-burning and atmospheric parts with traditional techno structures and feats. It may not contain the most original or stunning tracks in the genre, it still serves as an example of the merging of functionality sonorous beauty that techno at its best can achieve.

One could certainly say that ‘The Blue Album’ is tied together by a narrative structure while alternating between pumping dance-floor material, most often dark and even brutal such as ‘Force Carrier’ or ‘Startling Idea’, and cuts that expose a tendency towards refinement and ambience, like ‘Sex on Kepler-22b’ or the end-track ‘The Universal dream’.  The successful juxtaposition of these elements, which can be reduced to the musical essences of Reeko and Architectural, in this unifying arrangement of a kind of concept album, is exactly the record’s strength.

V.A. – “Black Series 004” is out since September 2nd

Track list:
1. Attac – 01
2. Attac – 01 (PertHil & Aerts Remix)
3. As Patria – Arcan
4. Tomohiko Sagae – Chloroform

Reeko w/ Architectural – “The Blue Album” is out since September 16th

Track list:
1. Blue
2. Melted
3. Dualities
4. Sex on Kepler-22b
5. Force Carriers
6. String Theory
7. Startling Idea
8. The Universal Dream

Review: Conforce – “Time Dilation EP”; Vincent I. Watson – “Serene”; Lucy & Silent Servant – “History Survivors”; Elektro Guzzi – “Cashmere EP”; Dinos Chapman – “Luftbobler”

Popperola has been quiet for a while. This was due to the fact that I was moving house but now I’m fully settled in my new home, it’s again time for some writing. So here are a few reviews of notable records (and more will follow very soon).

Firstly I’d like to mr3210_1_orention a new ep by Dutch producer Conforce, a man glowing with great talent. On his recently released “Time Dilation EP” on Delsin Records you’ll find four high-quality techno tracks that represent four different takes on the genre. Opener “Embrace” is a beautifully worked, otherworldly piece, coming along as a quasi-archetypical example of deep dub techno. “Last Anthem” then consists of warm, subaquatic tones contrasted with high shrieking sounds and a few underlying melodic synth lines on a simple, even substratum of beat and hi-hats: a configuration aimed at a trance-induced dance. Melody has been cut from “Receiver”, a darker and more metalloid fabrication. Lastly, In “Nomad”, the consistent beat pattern has been replaced by a more complex percussive structure which forms the basis for a track that seems to convey an introvert yearning. Striking and moving, to say the least.

Now, I must admit that I’ve always been quite a fan of Vince Watson’s work which, as you might knoPOMCD002_VinceWatson_Serene_CoverArtworkWebw, is a personal variant of classic Detroit techno with an accumulation of lush, harmonic lines and endowed with great melodies. The man recently was given the opportunity by Pyramids Of Mars to draw attention to a different aspect of his oeuvre. P.O.M. is a fresh enterprise of Matt Edwards (Radio Slave) and thus a little sister of his Rekids that seeks to combine an output of left field music with design and art. Since Watson’s music was used in “Mad Dogs”, a British television series on Sky1, the Scottish-born producer has set out to explore the combination of cinematic art and music further under his full name Vincent I. Watson.

The result is the album “Serene”, a collection of ambient tracks that indeed would go well with moving images. Seemingly, it is made with a similar modus operandi as Watson’s techno material: gradually well-chosen layers of sound are woven into a mesh of almost sublime splendour. The thrusting beats and percussion have evidently been left out but the usage of hardware that is typical for Detroit techno and early electronic popular music is still a basic premise. Also, the man’s talent as a piano player often comes to the fore more noticeably. Moreover, what connects this material perfectly to film and television is that it evokes a narrative structure including elaborated build-ups and fragments of tension release. In short, this is an album that’ll let you blissfully float in the vast territories of your fantasy.

MOTE034_CoverArtworkWebAt the present time the label Mote Evolver continues to deliver high standard, proper techno. A new release is due in a few days and is in fact a collaborative work of two producers on their peak, namely Silent Servant and Lucy. Their ep “History Survivors” contains two tracks of relatively long duration that reveal the distinctive treatment of noise and weird, industrial sounds of the first as well as the latter’s capacity to develop arresting arrangements. So in its length of thirteen minutes, “Dormancy Survivors” does not fail to keep attention focused, its storyline remaining haunting and edgy. “Victors History” on the b-side has a distinct percussive quality and is more hypnotic by nature. While bleeps and shrieks reverberate, some stretched synthesizer notes bring emotion into play. Anyway, it’s a superb record that I’d like to recommend.

M32_EG_Cashmere_cover_500x500Something of another kind is the work of the Austrian band Elektro Guzzi. They can be considered as the main protagonists of what is called live techno, by which is meant techno performed with real instruments, other than live sets done with hard- and software by producers. Elektro Guzzi’s merit is that they play exceptionally tight, so that the warmth and organic sound of their analogue instruments fall together with their mechanical precision. Often this brings to mind other styles that heralded techno, such as krautrock. Their latest ep, which will again be released by Macro and is produced by their compatriot and techno veteran Patrick Pulsinger, features three pieces or, to be precise two tracks and a reverse version of one of these. “Cashmere” itself is, well, live or not, a thriving piece with a certain drama that is as captivating as it is hot. The reverse version (on the B-side of the vinyl version) is just what it claims to be: the same structure but re-written and played backwards, which the band delivers as an equally great song. “Crack Fox” has a stirring quality, mostly because of the wobbling, repetitive guiding sounds that are topped up by short, drone-like horn touches and a guitar part that sounds similar to a new wave lick. Indeed, Elektro Guzzi once more made a record with a lively and warm sound and well-balanced in recording and production that proves their status.

dinos_chapman_luftboblerTo conclude I’d like to point out a remarkable release by Dinos Chapman, one of the Chapman brothers, a British visual art duo that, since the early 1990s, drew a lot of attention because of the shock value in their oeuvre. Mind you, this is hardly ever without purpose and they keep succeeding in asking relevant questions. To work independently from one another is very unusual but now Dinos Chapman has conceived a music album called “Luftbobler” (on The Vinyl Factory) full of weird and extraordinary electronic music. In several instances, this works quite well. I’d suggest you check it out yourself; you can find some tracks here, and you might as well read this interesting interview with the Londoner in The Guardian, where he discusses the idea behind the making of this album, his musical influences and the work he does with his brother Jake:

Conforce – “Time Dilation EP” is out on vinyl since February 4th

Track list:
1. Nomad
2. Receiver
3. Last Anthem
4. Embrace

Vincent I. Watson – “Serene” is out since February 18th

Track list:
1. Hidden Behind The Eyes
2. Placid
3. Sagitaria
4. Re-Contact
5. Serene
6. Out of Reach
7. Celtic Beauty
8. Continuum
9. Abyss
10. Open Your Eyes

Lucy & Silent Servant – “History Survivors” will be out on March 4th

Track list:
1. Dormancy Survivors
2. Victors History

Elektro Guzzi – “Cashmere EP” will be out on March 3th

Track list:
1. Cashmere
2. Crack Fox
3. Cashmere (Reverse Version)

Dinos Chapman – “Luftbobler” is out today

Track List:
1. So It Goes
2. Whatever Works
3. Reaktorsnuhsnuh
4. He Has No Method
5. Smeyes
6. Where’s The General?
7. Pizza Man
8. Sputnik
9. Cool Operator
10. Luftbobler
11. Enrich Zann
12. Sun Lounge
13. Alltid

Review: A Guy Called Gerald – “How Long Is Now”; Shifted – “Razors”

The year is coming to an end and perhaps the whole world too, on Dec. 21st. Perhaps you still have a small budget left after buying presents for your beloved ones, to spend on new music. Or maybe you still have to hand over your Christmas wish list to your relatives. Or you simply want to squander your last money now since the Earth will cease to exist in less than two weeks. Whatever may be the case, here are some suggestions.

Bosco021_CoverArtworkWebAThe Italian label Bosconi, based in the beautiful region around Florence, has already released some prime records from quite a few top international artists. Their latest ep comes from none other than A Guy Called Gerald, a Mancunian by birth but he has lived in several other big cities such as Berlin. Really, I do not deem it necessary to introduce him to you, because in the course of his career (which span over a quarter of a century already), he has written music history. Indeed, if someone took it up to compile his memoires, he/ she would easily fill several hundreds of pages. But why commence such an affair, as Gerald Simpson is still very active in the scene? This three-track record again demonstrates his ongoing zest and his boundless experience.

The title “How Long Is Now” is taken from a drawing and inscription at a wall of the Tacheles block in Berlin, the famed building on Oranienburger Straβe housed by artists of all sorts and where Simpson had a studio. The structure has only recently been closed down. The same titled first track is soaked in deepness and perfect for the moment when dawn creeps in; its slow pace and pulsating sounds have the capacity to prolong the night vibe. A similar profundity and unhurriedness is present in “The Groove Of The Ghetto” though here Simpson has added typical house elements such as black vocal samples, congas and a guitar lick which work just right. Lastly, “202” seems to be more rudimentary though it is equally well-crafted. But it is the overt contrast between fat, low pitches and high tones that makes for an interesting and apparently scouring texture.

MOTE033_Shifted_CoverArtworkWebAnd if the Earth hasn’t blown up because of some Mayan curse, Shifted has made sure 2012 ends with a blast. Luke Slater’s Mote Evolver just brought out a new ep by this talented, London-based producer consisting of four expressions of pure electronic savagery. You can notice how the man has evolved in a more consisting and more distinctive direction, although his debut album (on the same label) from earlier this year already proved his potential. Shifted‘s tracks remind one of the works of the big names in British techno but they do have a particular individuality as well.

I do not say this unthinkingly. Listening to “Bloodless”, I could not help recalling productions from the U.K. from around 1998: it has a similar looped structure, rather uncomplicated beat pattern and metallic sounds on top. Moreover, it openly flirts with an industrial (let’s just call it warehouse-like) sensibility, which obviously makes it appropriate for a certain kind of techno venue. The beat in the opening “Razor” is in its turn more thudding; it substantiates an admirably efficient piece of hypnotic repetition.

All of the pieces can be played relatively slow to really fast. In the first case, the intoxicating effect will be pertinent, in the latter case these will be menacing mischief-makers. Think about it, the Mayan jinx may have come in the form of dark techno.

A Guy Called Gerald – “How Long Is Now” is out on vinyl since December 1st (vinyl) and will be out on December 24th (digital)

Track list:
1. How Long Is Now
2. Groove Of The Ghetto
3. 202

Shifted – “Razors” is out since December 10th

Track list:
1. Razors
2. Over
3. Bloodless
4. Trouble

Review: EDMX – “153 Mission EP”

Now this is brilliant: a new ep by EDMX that takes me on a trip back twenty years ago! Ed Upton, as you might know, has been producing for more than fifteen years under numerous aliases but is mostly known as Ed DMX, DMX Krew or EDMX. Two features are prominent in his work, namely his versatility in regard to styles and genres, from classic electro over (booty) bass, pure techno and house to experimental electronic music and ambient, and his predilection for using analogue machines. The Dutch label Shipwrec has just released his “153 Mission EP” which, in turn, consists of four slabs of hardcore acid coming straight out of a real TB-303.

There’s something odd about this record because it’s most definitely old school in style and approach, nevertheless it sounds superbly fresh, as if this specific kind of raw music has just been (re)invented by Upton. Surely, the main reason for this is that it gets hardly played anymore nowadays in the average techno venue. But it is also because all four tracks are some of the best takes on acid you’ll have ever experienced. To quote a lame rock band: “Even better than the real thing”. This can undoubtedly be said of “What The…” which is a monster that‘ll spit fire over most dance floors. Its beat thrashes in a fast tempo while these well-known high-pitched acid sounds shred your brain to pieces.

And yes, I am very familiar with this kind of auditory havoc. I’ve devoured it since I was sixteen, when I went out for the first times in Belgian clubs such as Cherry Moon and Montini (where Stanny Franssen a.k.a. G-Force was a resident, among others). As it goes with one’s first contact with a certain music scene, it was extremely impressive and unforgettable. It stuck. This further explains why I’m so exhilarated by a track such as “Grab The Beat” with its simple 4/4 and rampant 303 tones. It evokes the darkness interspersed by stroboscopic lights and lasers as well as the wild enthusiasm of clubbers in those days.

But I must emphasise my point earlier made: this is only partly about sheer nostalgia. What’s more, EDMX has managed very well to twist together the vivacity, power, vitalism, excitement and fun of hardcore acid in this ep. And that, for me, is a great achievement. Get it and if you like to have it on old-fashioned vinyl, be sure to be quick because the pressing is limited to 150 copies.


EDMX – “153 Mission EP” is out since November 19th

Track list:
1. 153 Mission
2. Card Slot
3. What The…
4. Grab The Beat

Review: Sawlin – “Vault Series 12.0”; Sawlin – “Eviment”

There isn’t much known about Sawlin – except that he’s called Ronnie, lives in Berlin, studied sound engineering, runs a studio and is an analogue machines freak. That’s about all the information we’ll get for now and that’s all that he considers relevant. The guy doesn’t perform in public that often and tries to avoid the media. It’s a commonplace in techno: artists who deliberately dwell in obscurity while drawing on the classic statement that the music should speak for itself. In the case of Sawlin this actually works out finely since his relatively limited discography is imbued with a true trademark style – one which is definitely dark and gritty.

Nowadays, it is noticeable that several techno artists seem to return to a sinister, industrial and rather hard variant of the genre. Instinctively one can view this given as a response to life in an age that is eclipsed by a worldwide economic and political crisis. It could also well be a reaction against the current state of things in the dance scene, which has been penetrated by the mainstream and by commerce, where the influence of club culture has decreased and where instead large-scale dance festivals prevail. These focus primarily on a bland and colourful escapism and on delivering the visiting flock an overall experience; the music as such is only a small element of such lived events.

These are just a few elucidations, but I think it is obvious that people like Sawlin attempt to deliver a kind of techno music that implies another form of diversion from the hardship of everyday life. It might be perceived as being more confrontational because it doesn’t veil the gloominess of our times, but represents it and exploits it as a tool for subversion. Hence the references a lot of techno artists now make to musical styles that had a similar strategy, such as punk and industrial.

Anyway, for Sawlin this is an inspiring and productive period –he is about to release two eps soon. The first will be the twelfth record of Vault Series, a label started by Berlin-based producer Subjected around two years ago and I must say its mission statement sums up my introductory thoughts nicely.

The first track, “Mandeltone”, immediately brings one into a sphere that is reminiscent of derelict heavy industry, including rusty tones and uncanny sound snippets which are set against a background of hard pounding beats. A short-cut vocal sample adds to the music’s grimness. “Ambos” is slower but equally menacing due to its distorted high tones. The beat that characterises “Rebirth” is massive. Gradually layers are put in: metallic sweeps and echoing grinds carry along a hollow sounding melody. The digital version of “Vault Series 12.0” is supplemented with “Between Machines”, a track with a typical techno structure but also with a seemingly unpolished production – a feature that fits it perfectly.

Mid-December, Delsin’s sister label Ann Aimee, which was responsible for the man’s debut ep “Techno Dumping”, will then bring out “Eviment”, consisting of three more Sawlinesque stompers. The title track is packed with creepy parts, giving it an introvert and even depressing ambiance. Nevertheless, its build-up is thrillingly efficient. The same can be said about “Sour Tear” with its high-pitch snare percussion and weird hissing. But for me personally, “Kretze” is the Berlin producer at its best when it comes to creating mayhem on a dance floor, thudding as if an old factory is producing at night-time in a rhythmic, fluctuating pattern.

With these two releases, Sawlin confirms his status as a big talent and his future is looking bright – though that may not the best word to choose in relation to his musical output.

Sawlin – “Vault Series 12.0” will be out on November 28th (vinyl) and December 5th (digital)

Track list:
1. Mandeltone
2. Ambos
3. Rebirth
4. Between Machines

Sawlin – “Eviment” will be out on December 17th

Track list:
1. Eviment
2. Kretze
3. Sour Tear