Very Clever Music – V/A :: Brainbox (De:Tuned)

Rose tinted glasses aside, Brainbox is a seriously impressive undertaking. Six records from some twenty five pioneers, masters and newcomers. This new collection displays another side of Belgian label as a range of styles come into focus, from squirreled out acid and ambient immersion to electronica and glitch.

V/A :: Brainbox (De:Tuned)

There´s a fair bit of childish innocence that comes with record collecting. Thumbing through a crate of second hand garbage in the slim hope of a find. Opening up packages and running to the turntables to hear the latest arrival. Marvelling at cover art and colored vinyl. And picture discs! Although these are all wonders of wax, the Christmas morning moment has to be the box set. They’re a rarity, but when they’re done right…

De:Tuned is a lover of the box set, first expressing this with the five vinyl extravaganza of 5 Years of De:Tuned. The Antwerp imprint, of Ruben Boons and Bert Hermans, knows that the holidays are just around the corner and we’re all looking to relive the nostalgia of crawling under the tree and ripping open presents.

Rose tinted glasses aside, Brainbox is a seriously impressive undertaking. Six records from some twenty five pioneers, masters and newcomers. This new collection displays another side of Belgian label as a range of styles come into focus, from squirreled out acid and ambient immersion to electronica and glitch.

And in true De:Tuned form IDM is well represented. 4 Hero’s Marc Mac under his Nu Era guise delivers the sweet deepness of “The North View.” Other 90s behemoths are present, Spacetime Continuum delivering absorbing sound. The ambient wing of techno is a mainstay of the six LP outing. Leo Anibaldi’s “Panacea” drifts on a cloud of clicks and pops, dreamy notes ephemerally floating. “Obollis” by The Future Sound of London has a similar skyward quality. The astral is mixed with the organic. Echoes and fades, plinks and plonks, soft and sweetened synth lines for a true delight. Scanner wanders from this path—“Eros” leans into electronica. The track is built on tight loops, wet clack as staggered chords culminate. The track rises and falls, lilts and bends as an energy builds into something which is both unmistakably unique and addictive.

A cerebral seam runs through the collection, one which label co-founder Boons adds is in the title. “The title Brainbox refers to that way of working: artists from different musical backgrounds and styles all submitting their ideas, their sounds to computers to create tracks with their unique signature. It also refers to us gathering some of our favorite producers from different genres on one album project that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

And there are dizzying assortment on names on here: Move D, Deepchord, Speedy J and In Sync name to but a few. Kirk DeGiorgio’s As One moniker is a pillar of the third 12”, or his “Where Did He Go … And Why” is. Both Heinrich Mueller and Plaid are drafted in for remix duty. The former warms through his often colder tones, letting stirring strings soar and dip with the former Black Dog boys pouring tequila down the throat of the original for a romping remake.

Darker atmospherics border. B12 serve up the rhythmic complexity of “World’s End”, a swirling work that lurks and stalks between those floor focused beats. Experimentation and pure out-thereness comes from Meat Beat Manifesto and their heavily drugged “Synthesizer Test.”

I found myself uncovering new names, new to me anyway, as well. Locust, for example. Maybe you knew him, maybe I should’ve but I didn’t. Mark Van Hoen, who worked closely with Seefeel, was signed to Apollo in the 90s. Here he offers the crunched up lushness of “Dispelling 84-94”, a terrifically lonesome piece replete with buckled beats and gravel. And bangers? Yup, there’s a smattering. PFM carves up some broken beat goodness, with Total Science surfing a similar sinewave.

And the treats keep coming. Personal hero Mike Dred delivers a meandering work, the acid king pushing his well loved silver box ever further with fellow Rephlex veteran µ-Ziq dusting down the unheard “Lilt N’Vectif.” And we could go on. Simply put, this set is “jam” packed and sits proudly next to any classic electronic compilation.

Although Boons is undeniably proud of this latest achievement, he’s also humble. “…It’s not only a list of great artists but also a summary of good guys in general which made it a pleasant journey. As De:tuned, it’s very important for us that they all feel welcomed. Also, we don’t see us as the next A&R guys and we’re not into music business—we’re fans of music. We’re the outlet, artists creating music for this compilation was the real undertaking. We don’t take this for granted, it’s been quite an honor to work with each of them.” And that honor is reflected across this project. From the enigmatic artwork to the crystal clear mastering, this is an expression of admiration and appreciation.

De:Tuned have achieved something very special with this compilation. A remarkably expansive expression of what electronic music is; it’s depth and breath. I asked Boons about this shift into a wider sonic spectrum. “Our first releases were closely linked to the sound of the De:tuned parties at the time as for now and the near future it won’t follow a certain move or path. Just an open-minded selection within the full spectrum of electronic music. The day we’ll need to compromise, will probably be the day the label ends.” I for one am clasping the hands together to pray that such a day never comes.

Brainbox is available on De:Tuned.

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