Latest in a series of emissions from Techno’s Twilight Zone of EPs, 12″s & LPs with notes in the margins.
Beginning in Berlin, Milton Bradley (having dallied with Alien Rain) and DoNotResistTheBeat! are back with a reissue (The Unheard Voice, first heard on Prologue) and a debut LP, Tragedy of Truth, Patrick Radomski, man behind MB, cementing his credentials for ‘dystopian visions and the innovative states of mind that may free us from pre-programmed realities.’ Space is still the place—whether deserted cityscape reverberations or strategic lacunae between rhythmic sequences (cf. “Catching the Scent of Melancholy”). Dub techno tropes mix with grainy textures (“Poisoned by Sweet Things”), while elsewhere lurk acid recons (“Spiral of Silence”) and slow’n’low bass-scapes susurrating with hi-hat hiss and exhale (“Law of Attraction”). The Unheard Voice is a timely reissue, with hindsight a precursor of a recent gloom’n’doom techno trend: “Interdimensional Entity”—an abstract stepper with spatial pads and filtered whoosh; “Somewhere Beyond My Illusion”—questing further into outer limits (original title = “The Unheard Voice From Outer Space“), heartbeat bass throbs prodding through the drone; best is the title track’s static interference and atavistic voices over a bleep-tech rhythm’n’pulse.
Stroboscopic Artefacts hosts two label veterans who both draw from creative influences outside the techno box for a split EP, Ardent/Swallows. Kangding Ray proposes “Ardent,” a gripping propulsive piece of a similar stripe to recent full-length, Cory Arcane, blending roiling slice’n’dice sequences with burnished brassy undertones. Rrose‘s “Swallows” is simpler in concept but no less effective for it—huge one-note synth prods slowly turning in filtered sweeps arcing with gradual timbral aperture like a sonic searchlight across its targets, landing and passing on, evincing his ‘skill at crafting perfectly symmetrical and mesmerizing musical palindromes.’
Frankfurter Anselm brings us a hot dog of an EP, Gral, via his Unequal. We learn ‘Unequal means not to be just one specified style but an open-minded platform to express a diverse view of music within the techno genre.’ Fair enough, the EP has a certain range—from deep space analog techno to more caustic industrialist droning, as on “Ebene,” whose broken beats and modular synths have a steely sophistication about them that stands out on an EP of otherwise ‘cold, moody techno’ and ‘spherical soundscapes’.
Next Late Echo Express upgrades from Berlin artist Felix K‘s SUB label to parent Hidden Hawaii with the Parallel EP; a trio of morphing, greyscale D&B/ambient-techno/concrète dub mutations whose original white label editions were given out to friends, with a few sold at Hardwax Berlin. For the non-fanatic, digital will do to cue up three intriguing pieces: a turgid, hydraulic roller on the A1 for Samurai types, while the B1 skanks in fetid Pole-ish dub dimensions, and the B2 trafficks in eerie beatless ambience.
Italian in Berlin, Synthek, reaches a peak of his particular techno tweak with Verse II, an EP on his own STK with the help of master masterer, Ken Karter. It follows the same path as the inaugural Verse I, but with synths and beats sound set more for the heart of the sun—for something less standard issue, even transcendent. “InGrid” opens with dusty drums and reverberating claps gradually galvanized by swarming hi-hats. “Arrange” is a consummate balance of stripped down pulse and atmo’, with an interesting kink in its kinesis. No by-numbers 4-on-the-floor here. For “A New Journey” drums and celestial ambience shimmers beside pulsing sirens. “Selftalk” closes with thumping beats and melodic uplift. A much underrated artist—one to watch.
Berlin-based duo and self-titled label A Sacred Geometry follow up first EP, Chapter I, with… Chapter II. Theirs is ‘a highly detailed sonic world that is atmospheric, hypnotic, and rhythmically driven.’ Suited to ‘floor and home alike, the EP’s three wide-ranging cuts perfectly reflect ASG’s credo to ‘present techno in a different light and separate it from its typical dancefloor habitat.’ ASG ‘creates a nostalgic ambient reality redolent of space and texture. Layers of subtle melody and rhythmic pulsation capture the importance of atmosphere and narrative within their work.’ Po-faced and precious perhaps, but good gear.
Ruhig returns after a gap year with the Particles EP, first instalment of a double ep on Midgar (son of Natch) records. The title track is a Detroit-esque affair of voodoo synthlines, epic pads and fractured beats. “Eddying” follows up with a more direct appeal to the ‘floor, 4/4 stomp, swingeing hi-hats and suggestive ambiance, “Etere,” an interlude, before the eerie “Perle,” swarms with oneiric smears and clipped beats, “Idiom” bringing Ruhig’s unruhig quest to rest.
We take our leave of Germany to the tune of “The Voice of Cement Buildings,” stand-out track from Scattering, a first LP of tough beats and tenderized timbres by label owner ALHEK on Berlin’s Mechanical Thoughts.
Scientific techno crafted with the utmost precision, working the field and the frequency range far beyond simple floor action. That’s Oscar Mulero, who has a couple in currency: the Pattern Series – Arcade EP on Warm Up brings “Lights,” with sonar bleeps, percussives, rounded kicks, with hypnotic microvariativity; “Arcade,” more rhythm-fuelled, with a more elaborate weave of drum elements; “Echoes,” more cerebral, a slow build from filtered beats through digital-delayed percussive layers and FX on stun. The Second Skin EP on PoleGroup is full of glacial beats and dubby chords echoing with BC mutations. On a different kick Architectural‘s remix adds low-end grunt and spreads the reverb, some liquid drones and sneaky stereo tweaks. “Rotar” keeps the slow tempo, feeding in flanged percussion, chord-based synth fuelling the flow. Tensal remakes and remodels, twice, the first with a compact kick and heavy sub-bass action, tensioned hats, filtered chords and cabasa twists to turn it club-wards, the digital bonus more on a dub techno tip with rounded kicks in a reverbed-out space of, yep, you guessed, echoed chords and synth.
Russian electronicists, Random Walkers, with Cosmos on Montreal’s D.M.T., whose management are clearly on some kind of spiritual didactic mission; Der Denker with Florian Msk claim to ‘focus on offering meaningful music embodying unique narratives through characters and landscapes luring the listener into the creators’ magnetic imaginative abyss…,’ pausing only for breath before suggesting, ‘Accepting the isolation of blinding light yields fantastic psychological imagery.’ Blimey – but can yer boogie to it? (get that heretic out of here, Ed.).
Over to WA, USA to find Pathfinder, the latest EP from Blankstairs boss, Archivist, whose previous, Migration, we glimpsed in TOL :: July 2015. These are three deep techno tracks plus a remix by Bunker NY resident, Eric Cloutier. Borrowing from the Blankstairs blurb, “Klamath” ‘rises gently out of the darkness before overtaking the listener with its percussive power, […] the track is a rich hypnotic ride that flows effortlessly before finally returning to a state of rest.’ “A Rogue Moon” is a ghostly trip down shadowed trails, euphonic echoes and strings finding space in the track’s kicks. Archivist’s take on the title track deploys rolling rhythms and engulfing chords evincing the producer’s ability to ‘temper a peak time tune,’ while Eric Cloutier’s rework is ‘a clean cutting cleaver.’
France next, and Dement3d continue their run of techno double packs with a first of 2016, pairing Antigone and Francois X, key players in the current Paris scene. Ant has had a succession of compelling 12″s since his debut on Construct Reform in 2011, while Franc first made his name on DJ Deep’s Deeply Rooted House in 2009 before co-founding Dement3d. We Move As One is the outcome of the pair’s three years of collusion, with “The Hated SZ,” made the very first night they started, the impetus for them to continue communing. These eight tracks constitute a fine set of nocturnal techno. And Antonin Jeanson goes back to Belgium’s Token to follow up the peerless Cantor Dust EP (see TOL :: July 2015) with a follow-up, Saudade. “Night Adrift” packs a hefty pulse punch, while “Hiraeth,” in contrast, is more mysteriously turned, harmonic elements swelling and peeking through passingly before flitting out of earshot. Thematically, Hiraeth (Welsh) relates to a yearning for a home you can’t return to, or that never was, while Saudade (Portuguese) itself refers to a deep melancholic longing, both inviting a reading of the music as one recalling a distant memory, letting only fragments re-emerge.
Frenchman in Warsaw, Amandra, one of the minds behind Ahrpe records, a label that’s been home to his two EPs—Monkaunis, brought the label’s first transmission in mid-2014, and Lutsin in 2015, which came with a kuhl Korridor remix—along with similarly mesmeric stuff from fellow co-founder Ovend and Flogo. Now new double EP, Drachme Tolosate, sees an extension of his craft—expansive, slowly evolving techno, sounding for all the world like it came out of Sweden via Abdulla Rashim or Acronym and Northern Electronics.
Taapion offers its third owner airspace for its fifth release and first EP under the alias AWB, Celestial Longitude, presenting two original tracks both remixed by his brothers in arms, PVNV joining the crew, and Antigone with Shlømo. The artist, ‘coming from the last viking part of France,’ has musical influences ‘stretching from Jeff Mills’ techno to the ambient of Brian Eno,’ using Taapion’s energy for his two original tracks, ‘a safety space travel into light waterfall, vacuum and organic junction.’ Zut alors! (?)
Next a new waystage, Serbia, and Y/6543/, a young Serb producer whose style is described as ‘minimalist but also dense and captivating,’ with productions ‘focused on abstract and atmospheric structures.‘ He follows last year’s Scanning on Accents with two EPs—Muur on France’s Lett, Edmos on Poland’s Hypnotic Landscapes, the latter bearing three of his own deep-divers plus a remix from HL owner Tawbaq.
Our first Outer Limits trip to Japan goes via Argentina, with Imugem Orihasam hosted by Diffuse Reality to Assemble Unreality. An Outer Limits-surfer whose movements we’ve observed from afar for some time, Orihasam is a shapeshifter with diverse esoteric releases across a raft of labels (Ilian Tape, diametric., and Balans, to name but three), this from his darker more experimental twin (mostly) containing seven originals plus remixes—finest by far from Arnaud Le Texier, with more uncouth bruitist bashes from Martyn Hare, Dimitri Pike, Manni Dee.
London next, where Black String brings Svarog‘s Interstellar EP, its quartet of veiled techno tracks impressively detailed. “Distant Line”—fractured rhythmic and hypnotic, with atmospheric synths, getting down to ‘floor biz with the title track, linear dubby fare that clears the air for “Rangers” to drape gauzy synth film and chiming timbres over a nagging pulse. In a similar vein “Sunset Trip” has tough, steely drums, environmental inserts and haunting cadences, shrouded in synth fog. The Ukrainian is a busy boy, with his Dancing with a tambourine EP just out on Spain’s Circular Limited, and the Adan Raltan EP on Several Reasons; both mix saturated timbres, industrial and atmospheric textures, often broken beats, with shades of ambient, dub and techno. Raven and Kanthor (also with a Black String EP upcoming) re-tweak the lead track intriguingly. As if that weren’t enough, he shows up—with Re:Axis, Splinter UA, A-909, Nikka, Redial Tone, Engineer, et al.—on Observatory Vol.1, a compilation of lost and rare from the archives of Lisbon’s Monocline.
London-Rome concern Blackwater—via sub-label Kapvt Mvndi—offer Italy’s Astronomy Domine their own vehicle following a debut outing on the Svprasensible Destination compilation; they manage to cram a full 17 minutes onto a single-sided 12″, Elementi harboring a double helping of 8+-minute beaty murk jams—dark psychedelic droney ‘post-techno with cold wave leanings.’ “Fuoco Acqua*—a poised piece of dark techno, nicely turned out for neo-goth night with vintage Æ-style synth pads, before descent into “Spazio Terra”—knackered tempo and Latin chantings. “Fuoco Acqua” is calm, even relaxing, while “Spazio Terra” closes the EP with a dark hypnotic hymnal. A perfect OST for any ancient rite or occult ritual down at your local club.
Techno outlier Positive Centre is hosted by Amsterdam’s Leyla for the Nonharmonic Beautifault EP. Not surprisingly, for one with previous on Our Circula Sound and SA, we’re offered ‘intense introspection of sound deconstructionism and spatial dissonance,’ starting with “Blank Hand,” a sludge-fuelled wade through wheezing rhythms and dusty audio offcuts, hoover and TV static building, then settling into a lovely din. “Body Molecule” is pinned to a dense lurching rhythm driven towards synth attack and swarming soundscape. “Angular Beautifault” places acid lines and buzzsaw synths in a reverb chamber—claps and 303 make free with spiky broken beats under chiming icy motifs. “The Burin” is a more caustic affair of power kicks, slanted percussion, doubled beats and looped up intensity. Positive Centre shifts between delicate ambience and harsher darker mood music.
Delsin welcomes mainstay artist Conforce back with a brand new EP, North To South – Part 1. Four fresh deep explorations of musical subtlety and rich sonic design tied to some of his ‘flightier drum programming.’ Opener “Dark Days” smears skewed synths over rooted drums and analog bass before “Syncronized” slips down an eerie alien chamber, celestial pads and synth crystals. “Betray The Opponent,” a spooky one with rubbery bass pings, and “Eclipse”—dub chords and feathery snares with close to what chillout-ers might call a mellow groove. Delsin also hosts Taapion‘s Shlømo for In Absentia : Tome 1, a sumptuous space techno EP featuring three originals and a great remix from Artekfakt. “In Absentia” is a super deep slab of intergalactic techno with soft drums and angelic chords featuring PVNV. “Escape From The Void” is darker and more direct, keeping it minimal with rubbery bass and kicks, then “Poison River” ups the ante—kick drum shock and train track percussive awe with a distant glow of pads. Finally, Artefakt makes a collage of all three Shlømo originals for a hypnotic roller headed for a more cerebral ‘floor.
Insula is readying s a follow-up to their first record (Cyspe‘s Amnesia, seen on TOL :: November 2015) in the Continuous Limit EP, a 4-track peak-time tripper from stellar Argentine Alderaan. After Planet Rhythm and Weekend Circuit appearances he brings his mesmeric take on techno to the Dutch imprint for a slalom through syncopating bass-lines and spacious textures driven by heavy kicks.
Dialling up .it, Retina.it, in fact, we find the Naples-based duo via Rome’s Eklero. They’ve been switching things up lately with dark cerebral productions at the edges of techno—an SA collab with Dadub, and a Semantica brace—De Occulta Philosophia Vol. 1 and a split with Donato Dozzy. The Octagon EP further embraces abstraction—with compelling results. “Reflection In A Symmetric Space” is high-tech broken-beat that thumps, squelches and grinds. The more experimental “Cellular Structures” unspools long sequences of synco-percussion, bubbling bass and heady electronic noise. Northern Electronics ace, Acronym, flips the mood of “Reflection In A Symmetric Space” with a warm and airy remix that’s as straightforward as Octagon gets. A devotee of rhythmically intricate techno, Hypnus overlord Ntogn proves a match for “Cellular Structures,” stretching source material into a slithery neo-ritual romp.
…prompting a hop over to Sweden, and another of Ntogn’s watches, Hypnus affiliate, Kabalion, which hosts Nordanvind proprietress, Fjäder, ‘the latest alchemist initiated in our guild,’ for their ‘fifth elixir.’ For Stardust ‘we are led out of our inner stormy seas, through the mists toward the rainbow where we may all dance in bliss and ecstasy. We are guided out of the winter cold into the flourishing life of spring where buds in the forest are twitching after their hibernating sleep. Slumbering, waiting for the summer sun.’ Yes, I know—get past the sub-shamanic neo-hippy piffle this lot insist on accompanying their releases with, and your musical reward is within. Over in Uppsala County, Ntogn reveals another enterprise, Tome, via which comes his Sathurnus EP, ‘…a tribute to my first 10’000 days of life,’ on which the wacky warlord indulges his desire ‘to create a testament, to mold my inner self in sounds without any compromise. […] ‘Sathurnus’ […] will be an open project continuously filled with material emanated during the coming 832 days.’ (Emanate in the air, like y’just don’t care!)
Ending back in Italy with Funk You, a crew formed as a DJs and party promoters collective, following Astronomy Domine’s rather fab Kepler Mission EP (see TOL :: February 2016) with one from Sonntag Morgen‘s Tracy, whose Dott. Zeta EP is topped off nicely with a nagging niggler of a remix from Takaaki Itoh. Lastly, DVKA (Christian Duka) brings his Frisson EP on his own DVKA label; seemingly ‘from the technicality of sound engineering, he investigates the psychological implications of emotional involvement in music listening.’ That’s Techno’s Outer Limits…
Selections from this Outer Limits episode are in the Soundcloud below and latest albient mix, Dalliance #14.