First transmission of 2017 from Techno’s Twilight Zone of EPs/12″s and LP, with notes in the margins.
James Shaw, the artist known as Sigha, we’re told (blurb), ‘has always placed the listener at a centrifugal point that invites a clandestine hypnosis rather than an abject hysteria.’ Cheers for that, James. Be that as it may, a kind of tipping point is reached on an evolving production trajectory with third Token, Metabolism, resolving the mind-body problem with a chthonic low end ballast for the crystalline pads running through its staticky sound stage. With a hefty dynamic range, at once ‘floor-fuelled and abstract, for a tangible, even visceral, departure from more shabby chic conceptual fare for Avian (cf. The Purification Loops, Techno Derivatives), techno tools shucked off for sound design, this Sigha individuates more than blurs, merging body/head space.
Synthek, whose questing STK series made him a TOL go-to, Goes Big with Transitions of Life. Concept? ‘… disorderly moments welcome new phases into existence, leading to the awakening of an elevated version of the self. Between highs and lows, Transitions of Life remain; the concept behind Synthek’s first solo full length sound narrative…’ Ooh, ‘narrative’! And do we have ‘journey’? Natch! ‘Synthek’s crossings along rough roads are the tribulations to reveal this intimate personal journey of revelation through emotional downshift, spiritual upheaval and cerebral quandary.’ Cripes, can’t these jumped-up DJs just drop a record and cut the cod-spiritual crap? No, it seems, we need High Register: ‘In this dominion, Synthek shapes the eleven track escapade along a sophisticated array of synths and warm analog drums,’ and fanfare of ‘a 3-part sound design beginning from darkness and repression, evolving to a more colourful aerial majesty of lucid dream state, morphing into the developed nature of life lessons learned; Transitions of Life making its incarnation into the discovery of the self and re-entry into reality.’ All over-egged with production bringing to mind when bands like Pink Floyd (60s-70s) or Simple Minds (80s-90s) slid towards Stadium from Underground. Nice in parts, but losing his edge.
Dutch electronica duo Artefakt (Robin Koek and Nick Lapien) zone in with a debut LP of moody blue ambient atmo and off-kilter techno rollers for Delsin. Kinship (igloo-‘viewed here) effectively distils the good bits from the sound embodied in their 12”s for (R.I.P.) Prologue, Field and Konstrukt into seven tracks—from heavy Detroit influence (centrepiece, “Entering The City”) to mid-’90s UK AI, from their backyard’s deep techno heritage (“Kinship”) to snap-jawed electro (“Somatic Dreams”) and more austere acidics (“Fernweh,” “Return To Reason”), to say nothing of the BoC-Basinski clash of one of its mood-setting bookends, “Tapeloop 1.”
Alessandro Stefanio aka Buck‘s Substrato summons old faithful, Edit Select, for its fourth EP. He dials in Points Of Contact, ‘an EP full of skittering percussion and engulfing, psychedelic drones, a journey…’ (aaargh, the dreaded J-word!) ‘from packed 3am dancefloors all the way through to the after party.’ Tony Scott layers loops large, careening synth lines through hi-hat splat and kick shtick. “Faction 1.1” brings enveloping timbral embrace, soft kick thrum and reverbed percussion in a propulsive ethereality at once fragile and euphoric. Oooh! “Tangent” takes a heavy turn, with synth-buzz, drone-shadow, and robo-synth pulse-smears. Max-out hip-gnosis!
First release from Sciahri and Dagdrom‘s new Sublunar imprint (focusing on ‘deep hypnotic textural techno’ – yawn) is an EP trilogy from the former. Devotion – part 1 is at once abstract and detailed, concrete and visceral—dense but spacious over its trio of tracks. Devotion – Part 2 finds atmos unsettlingly densified. A dry chunky flow starts with “Shelter,” and “Contortion” adopts a more angular yet diffuse form before “Lineage” throws us off the trail, only beat shadows to navigate by. Part 3 launches fast and loose with “Anathema” before “Prostration” inquires into the mysteries of the organism via esoteric frequencies extending into “Critical Devotion.”
Founders of Paris’s Flyance, Ka One & St-Sene, embark on a first outing as Kas:st, Dysphoria I Euphoria (Chapter 1). It’s a mix of propulsive and cosmic, not least on “11:11” and “22:22,” which both mix deep pads and repetitive high-hats and claps for a surging ride. “33:33” is epic uplift wrapped in sci-fi pads, and “44:44” maintains Kas:st’s (inter)stellar standard. Remix-wise, HVL offers a crafty electro variant on “22:22,” while Shlømo tweaks “33:33” towards the heart of the sun, “11:11” is refined by Deepbass*, and Re:Axis rethinks “44:44” as a proper bruiser. Dysphoria I Euphoria (Chapter 2), brings a set of 4 originals with 4 remixes from Luke Hess, Setaoc Mass, Anetha, and AWB. (*Deepbass News: a forthcoming Kontrafaktum EP, Multiverse, proposing ‘a mesmerizing journey into gloomy parallel universes.’ Ooeeooee <twilight zone tones>)
Bournemouth-born’n’bred Berlin-based Ben Thomas aka BNJMN doubles up with Body Reflections pt.1 for Tresor and an inaugural EP on new label, Tiercel. Paean offers 2 slabs of atmo- hypno- sci-fi blah Techno plus an ambient interlude, “The Greater Void.” “Mass Conductor” lards on lardons of sonics pummelling to climax, before the title track ends eponymously devotional, at once smooth and hard, manic and playful.
Annulled recalls Elle to summon up the spirits of his Yemaja EP (‘a composition commemorating the African gods. A series sounds and environments that move into the depths of mythology.’) with Omnia. No peddler of frivolous floor-filler or banging bruitism, this Milan Mago rather ‘reflects a brilliant inspiration that defines the passage of time present, past and future in a unique moment,’ in a gripping octet of neo-ritual mesmerism.
The definitive GAS box set, compiling the most comprehensive versions of essential albums, including edits never before vinylized, marks the 20th anniversary of Zauberberg, which set the GAS transmission tone. A ‘unique take on electronic expressionism,’ a kind of ‘cyber-folkloristic techno,’ Wolfgang Voigt‘s 1995-2000 GAS emissions are myriad, the scarcity of the originals assembled here affording them even more mythical caché. Kompakt‘s reissue houses the core Mille Plateaux-released LPs that set the tone of GAS, ‘an endless march through the underwoods of an imaginary, misty forest and into the disco’ between Wagner and the kick drum.
A Sacred Geometry returns with Chapter III, a set of ‘soft, serene and yet captivating’ tracks with ‘a nostalgic ambient reality redolent of space and texture.’ Layers of pulse’n’atmo conspire in the narrative of their work. “Atheres” builds different sonic structures over the rhythm, with “Nineveh” more hypnotic, ascending synth moving fluidly through it. “Earendel (Part 1)” rests on a pulsating drum and hi-hat pattern, wisps of notes emerging late in the day. “Earendel (Part 2)” takes it on with more structure and tenacity, beat becoming heavier, melody more focused. Mmm… nnniiice!
Kangding Ray presents Hyper Opal Mantis, a first LP for SA, a label he’s dallied with since 2012. Over five LPs for Raster-Noton, his hi-def. experimental sound has distinguished itself. This first away from R-N home, continues an increasingly techno-inclined trajectory with a triptych on three states of desire: we learn, ‘HYPER the primal, sensual lust, OPAL is the emotional catharsis, a blissful desire for love; MANTIS, like the insect it refers to, the destructive, fatal attraction.’ Yikes! More Meta– stuff? ‘The tension between the natural and artificial, the body and mind, are central themes in electronic music in general, and Techno in particular, as the means of creation, focused around technology and interactions with machines, contrast with the emotional response to sound, the mystical ritual of collective dancing, and the ethos of liberation and tolerance embedded in the culture it produced.’ Lumme!
Northern Electronics-niks Abdulla Rashim and Jonas Rönnberg renew their Ulwhednar project with Modern Silver, which ‘scans the club for afflicted movers with variations of overcast fervour. Its cavernous anguish seen with dilated pupils, marking a mood that’s as hostile to hedonism as it is holding you to its tactics’ (says here). As Varg Rönnberg casts an enigmatic Nordic pall over non-mainstream club-stuff with his caustic combo of beats + hi def. synth pressure via such as Semantica and Avian (The Empire Line). A stream of sub-genre trope threatening pieces rolled out early-2017 under the Nordic Flora Series banner, latest instalment, Nordic Flora Series Pt.3: Gore-Tex City, threatening ‘stealth dance floor assaults […] layered with lobotomised, spoken word meetings in malls, and free-form electronics pepper acoustic bereavement motifs […] from heavy to chronic as blown-speaker-rap stubs out cigarettes in gated techno enclosures,’ incl. collabs with Alessandro Cortini, Drew McDowell, et al. Ooh, lookee here, their NE mucker, Acronym, re-cranks his Dimensional Exploration for Off the Grid: “Submarine K-221″‘s subtle broken tech arrests with a dark-tropical sample circling a perc-y synth-stew, the bleep’n’boosting “Off The Grid,” and the sub-aquatic “It Lives Below,” finishing off with “To Breath Under Water”‘s whalin’n’squelchin’ Dozzy-ness.
Off the back of EPs from Artefakt, Doka, SHLTR and Cassegrain, Konstrukt teams Svreca with Retina.it, and Nuel too for the Konstrukt 005 EP. The Retina ragazzi get jiggy with Señor Semantica on a brace of hypno-bangers, “Avenza” and “Aquatermae,” Nuel fuelling the vehicle with a more elusive and diverse couplet. Some context for text? ‘The gravitational pull of the moon lets the water flow gracefully. Way off past awareness, in and out of reach like a half remembered dream.’ Do ya? Still IT-side, Assioma Geometrico from PRG/M (Pier Giuseppe Mariconda), who has trafficked variously in ‘dark ambient sounds, immersive pads and subdued and deconstructed rhythmics via Concrete (Rome) and Blackwater (London), here on Eklero offshoot, Spagiria.
ASC has shapeshifted stylistically across a genre-busting discog, from deep techno for Auxiliary, d’n’b for Samurai and ambient for Silent Season. Last year’s Geocentric Systems (Horo) was hi-octane, as against the airy-faerier The Farthest Reaches, while his latest brace face out from in between. Internal Software for ARTS starts it up, bassline unspooling as “Soma” slowly unwinds; “Simplex” gurgles along between techno and d’n’b, alluding, not going there; tribal-trance and dystopian undertones carry over into the neo-Orientalist “Colonies”—more nuanced, and minimal. “Centric” leaves the sound stage seeping with timbral dry ice. His purple patch continues with Zone Of Avoidance on Auxiliary‘s Veil sublabel—a trio of Grey Area types and a 170 bpm beatless ambient track that’s been round the Auxcast block a few times. All very sci-fi fine and future-basing dandy, “Solar Reaction” especially.
Adelaide-based Dryad‘s debut release on Melbourne’s Southern Lights, 2S2W EP, showcases booming beats and provocative sounds with ‘Inside Now’ and ‘Pressure,’ with remixes courtesy of Annulled User, who reworks the former into an epic apex, and Michal Wolski, whose repitch of the latter is all brooding oceanism.
Label owner Kastil comes up with a fourth 12” in Soul Notes’ Stale series, The Sadistic Abbess. Opener ”YD33” is modular sounding, robust and assertive, showing prowess in psychic ambiance and somatic drummage; ”Sphere of Influence” comes on all interstellar + FX overdrive, while ”Bastardos” is all filmic thematics, and ”Variable Penrose” mysteriously monobrow in its heads down doofist imperative; Novi Sad boy Lag rethinks ”Gold Coal” as a thumpy minimal wave-y synth-grandstander. Head hertz!
Agnosia, seeking A Dazzling Awareness via Ephemeral Manoeuvres, ‘swim into distorted melodies, mixing progressive and quiet grooves, swallowing you to a metaphorical trip inside the mind of the main character of the story in every release, using the thoughts as the principal way of expression’ (which translates into bleached-out shoegazey Ambient Techno (cf. Anatomy of Melancholia (igloo-’view)). Von Grall remixes—but the Babelfish Spanglish blurb is, alas, unmixed: ‘A Dazzling Awareness, an imperfect awakening of the senses. Have you ever been in that situation, when you can’t percept anything all around you and your own mind is into a state of reverie? Where you can only feel the pain of being lost in your own space?’ (done yet?) ‘Well, this is the moment to go ahead and fight face to face to your unconscious. Meaningless ideas, coming to your head, stunning your feelings, and now you can feel a harbinger, to a dramatic state of life.’ (still there?) ‘Be brave, be strong. Wake yourself up in a way to escape and, find a meaning to feel alive and feel your senses once again. Faith will guide you into the path of light, and then, that light will lead you to the journey of the perfect daydream.’ Bless.
Last gasp: Black String recalls Mechanist, whose first-footers, Dysphoria and Manifestos were vital to setting the in-house tone, for the questing Aare, and nurtures Nippon neophytes, Common Sense, with a crafty confection of techno, noise and ambient, Particle. Latest From the Vault PT. II collects 10 of the best remixes from Dutch label, Dynamic Reflection. Tunisia’s Warøk is a new platform for Naturespect from Polish hypno-atmo-techno Hypnotic Landscaper, Tawbaq, and Levels of Consciousness from Cløtur. UK Subosc label admits Unclear, aka Bari’s Paolo Bianco, to the fold with the SBC012 EP, incl. a stellar Shaded Explorer remix. Three neo-tribal wig-outs for febrile ‘floor- and head-spaces gets Refracted‘s latest, Mind Express 03, moving, forthcoming Expeditions on the horizon for PoleGroup. Warren Spectralband (The Clairvoyants/Seance) brings Mind Static‘s Cosmic Gate and Yinn‘s Paralysis. Hello, Georgia! Colombia, are ya ready to tech?! Matico aka Concrete Path‘s Lost Soul and Into Better Times brings the lowlight Hidden & Desperate into view, prompting:
‘Truly there is no wise man,
Who does not know the dark
Which quietly and inescapably
Separates him from everything else.’