Last emission of 2016 in a series from Techno’s Twilight Zone of EPs/12″s and LPs with notes in the margins.
Porter Ricks’ quasi-mythical status may have grown in the 17 years since their last Symbiotics (Mille Plateaux, 1999), but latest EP, Shadow Boat, shows the myth is merited. FACT mag tags the title track ‘the year’s most labyrinthine, burying layer upon layer of tense electronics on throbbing bass and jittery drums,’ the EP ‘deeply nuanced in its perception of space, using complex layers to add depth, detail, and density to non-formulaic techno compositions: buoyant dub, hazy ambience, and colorful sound design renders the project a diving platform at the intersection of club music and art.’ Tresor claims this shady vessel ‘drifts in cadence with Porter Ricks’ earlier releases as though pulled by a gravitational force spanning the stroke of time.’ And, though there’s more rhythm and melody matter than on the touchstone Biokinetics (Chain Reaction, 1996), Köner and Mellwig use similar strategies to show Dub Techno can be more than a bunch of pre-fab trope re-heats.
The ever-prolific Varg marks the start of an expansive assemblage with Nordic Flora Series Pt.1: Heroine, four tracks of ‘downcast euphoria, fitted with enough bump to make you mistake the smoke machine for a riot control agent’ (Northern Electronics blurb). Nordic neighbor Posh Isolation sponsors Nordic Flora Pt. 2, En Ros Röd Som Blod, more elaborated, diverse twin to Pt.1‘s ‘manifestation of his most direct techno appliance,’ moving seamlessly between ambience, 4/4 techno and sound collage, even random free jazz drumming stumbling in late in the day. While in Northern zones, lest we forget, one of the year’s best comps, NE‘s 30th release, Scandinavian Swords II, commemorates a sound whose coherence lies in influences from new wave to ambient, tangled up with techno hypnosis.
SNTS opens his Sacred Court with a second album, Losing Sight. The masked man first emerged in 2012 with a string of grainy blown out productions—a pair of EP trilogies and debut LP, The Rustling Of The Leaves (see here)—through his eponymous vinyl-only label. Here SNTS dives further into the experimental and the distorted, letting in noise, industrial, techno, post punk and EBM elements. Losing Sight incorporates enigmatic sounds, delving into slower tempos, melding modular synths, analog drum machines, guitars, grainy distortion, effects-pedals and—what’s this…? Vocals? Yikes! And recording ‘in a cave studio in an undisclosed location, in order to achieve the ideal acoustics.’ Spooked.
Substrato follows Limo‘s SUB001 (feat. Edit Select) and boss Buck‘s SUB002 (feat. Artefakt) with Dorian Gray‘s SUB003, drawing on ‘a broad range of influences that rest somewhere between surrealism and sci-fi’; there’s more—‘a canvas of obscure atmospheres and hypnagogic patterns, the textures of which play to the label’s orientation towards the acoustics that embody subterranean and submerged worlds.’ Blimey! From “A Winking Light In The Dark”‘s atmo-flutter to “An Extraordinary Day On The Exoplanet”’s filmic swirl, it shifts paradigm from modernist to shamanic; Buck’s industrial strength remix stays gray, but nods more to the ‘floor, melding structure, rhythm and melodic off-cuts. “The Access To A Parallel Plain Of Existence” sneakily shifts to sift through drifting sonic strata. Planned for Jan is Edit Select‘s Points Of Contact EP, strewing layered loops and careening synths through skittering hi hats and driving kicks (“Faction 1”), bringing closure with ethereal perc-y propulsions (“Faction 1.1”). Before that, the Selectah pops up elsewhere (Kontrafaktum) to re-tweak one of Blazej Malinowski‘s doleful ruminations from his Profundity EP.
After a fine first EP for Delsin in 2105, Dutch duo Artefakt return to the fold with The Mental Universe, Robin Koek and Nick Lapien displaying their ambient techno chops, texture maps and beat science. “The Mental Universe” opens things up with deep spaced rolling rhythms, “Tidal” suspended in interstellar overdrive ambience, “Mirage” with vast cavernous blurred out expanses, a rework lathering up the pads even more for a final push to ultimate celestial zone-out.
The latest in PoleGroup‘s CD mix series, Unknown Landscapes Vol 4, is 22 previously unreleased cuts compiled by PG platform member, Reeko. As well as himself and patron, Oscar Mulero, usual suspects Exium, Kwartz, Jonas Kopp, Pfirter, are joined by new ‘groupies Reggy van Oers, DJ Hyperactive, Unbalance and Kangding Ray. An extra feature is the choice of four—Unbalance, Mike Parker, Lussuria and Reeko—from the mix for an exclusive vinyl. RVO brings expert knob twiddling and pukka production to Ingrained for Joachim Spieth‘s Affin, along with a blurb—‘mediating insights to the root that ensures a nutrient cycle of the plant’—that comes on like a Biology textbook, doubtless intended as a cryptic signifier of something deeeep. TOL fave, Acronym, offers the most interesting twist, though, his “Acronym Spatial Remix” tweaking an engrossing title track elsewhere entirely.
Plenty going on on Planet Rhythm, with Giorgio Gigli fresh from an EP with Ness back for another Italian job with VSK. While GG is known from outings on the likes of Prologue and his own Zooloft, VSK has been peddling off-kilter bangers for EarToGround, Perc Trax and the like. The Silent Age EP finds them merging reverb-doused outlier sounds with powerful kicks and basslines. Compatriot, OWL, explores some twilight zones with PR debut, Time Dilation—questing post-club cuts welling up with sundry depth-soundings. Out of Melbourne Juxtpose intrigues with some neat tweaks and takes on shifting the rigid 4/4 imperative with off-kilter shimmies on the Relapse EP, and Shoal‘s Füml EP’s not too shabby either. Lisbon’s Temudo follows a string of releases on the Dead Motion imprint with 9.5 EP, a quartet of cuts rubbing thick textures up against fat drums. More recently Dubiosity returns, Denying The Antecedent big on pulse’n’atmo with pad-based tracks building while maintaining overall serenity.
Voices From the Lake-siders Dozzy and Neel‘s Spazio Disponibile has a couple of newies: Scenario, from newbie Modes, who slips in comfily to the deep transcendental in-house style, opening with “M52”’s sci-fi hyp-gnosis of rubbery kicks and Millsian melodics; “M51,” a moodier affair with smeary pads and grainy ambience; finally “M44,” more forceful, texturizing the airspace with reverb and static. Mike Parker returns to SD to hook up with Dozzy for Paramagnetism, opener “Meltemi”‘s fathoms’s deep diffusion a rare case of Parker’s pulse being checked, before getting down to beaty biz with the subaquatic title scudder, ‘yoking the groove to a blindingly tight rave pinch with “Opalesce”, and tweaking out their slinkiest dizzying arrangement in “Stegosaur.”‘ (boom!)
Poland’s Adam Michalak, previously on Silent Season and Somehow among others, has a first release for neonate Polish label, The Other Way. Notable for variety and quality of sounds, the Decay EP is a diverse selection lent further edge by Michał Wolski‘s remix of “Decay I,” devil in the detail of the tense atmo festooning the thumping kick emergent from within its dubby darkness. Mastered by Neel, as are many of TOL‘s hot spots.
Off-kilter techno twirls from Cassegrain, who, with previous on a wide variety of imprints, incl. M_Rec, Prologue and Infrastructure, took their destiny into their hands earlier this year, founding their own label, Arcing Seas (Cassegrain anagrammed!). Second 12″, ARCS-02, contains three sig.-style wonk-outs that ‘presents the duo’s very individual approach to tonality within the techno framework, combined with a subtle tribal influence.’ “Stax Scarlett” peppers thumping broken beats with guitar dystopia and chord creeps, “Vultures” adds rolling dub techno chops to a shaker-driven groove, while “Local God” is appealingly wild at heart in its chord shapes and structures. Weird on top!
The Dance is a Kontra-Musik project involving Ulf Eriksson and Minilogue man, Sebastian Mullaert. Off the back of last year’s The Dance mix-CD, which featured Mullaert material along with tracks from Marcel Dettmann, Prince of Denmark and Tin Man, The Dance Remixed 1 sees reheats of some of the Swede’s meats by Joey Anderson and Markus Suckut, as well as abstract but engaging versions of “Fusion” and “Movement” under Mullaert’s Wa Wu We guise. The Dance Remixed 2 features an ever-growing remix by Efdemin, while Wa Wu We’s “Fusion” take is feverishly humid, and VFTL take the nocturnal route—all brooding dark, heavy rain and nocturnal animals. Northern Electronics’ Ulwhednar (Abdulla Rashim & Varg) head elsewhere for a hyperborean remix filled with chilling harmonies and gangrenous beats. Dutchie Malbetrieb finishes off with a sub bass boomer built around a variation of the original melody.
Function‘s Infrastructure hosts Rrose for his latest batch of boomy, droning Techno trips. Arc Unknown opens with the title track locking into an almost downtempo slowly nagging iteration of a minimal yet rich 4-to-the-floor show. The B-side is livelier, less entangled in a web of cavernous sonics, and “Specimen 2” bounces all over the place thanks to subtle beats and quirky harmonics, leaving “Specimen 3” to evolve that same sound further into oblivion—the same jingles now lost in an intricate pattern of molecular sounds.
Spain’s ever-reliable Circular Limited offer enjoyable comfort zone hypno-tech fodder with Full colapse fusion (sic) by Nørbak aka Artur Moreira, previously on Mexico’s Illegal Alien with the Oracle EP. Even better is Old by Qeel/Unknown Location and, most recent, Svarog, with Reflection on the rock.
Spain still, Claudio PRC is hosted by Svreca‘s Semantica, to whose 10th anniversary series he recently contributedm for Volumi Dinamici—nodding to sound art pioneer, Luigi Russolo. Setting out to combine music and art inspired by Futurist concepts of dynamism and artistic currents like Abstract Expressionism, C-PRC‘s second LP collects 11 dark techno and ambient tracks, all ‘characterized by a common technical and compositional approach.’ Depth, light, shadow and noise are elements marks ‘a new sound research based on the use of machines and analogue instruments,’ including collabs with Dino Sabatini and Blazej Malinowski, with whom he hooks up again for TGP Extra 003, two deep spacey expeditions; “CXXV,” a collab with UNC, a sombre minimalist deviation with a hint of dubby haze, and Malinowski’s “III,” sparse aquatic, stretching cold beats and bass prods over a shifting backdrop of soft harmonies and industrial sonics.
Having evolved some way from its parent’s d’n’b genes, finding its own ambit—a so-called ‘grey area‘—via a kind of eclectic electronic and ambient dérive—Samurai Music‘s experimental offspring, Samurai Horo, drops the Sam to go solo, Horo. It sets the tone with a brace of EPs, Ancestral Voices‘ Yantra continuing the caustic ambience of debut album Night Of Visions, Auxiliary boss ASC bringing Geometric Systems with ‘fervent Grey Area experiments that push the outer edges of the sound into darker territory.’ ASC seems crucially emblematic in Horo’s renewal, with futurist industrial techno thriller “Aphelion” and “Perihelion” particularly vibrant forms with their time-sig tricks, ‘Techno rebuilt with dizzying sensory loss, adding a weightless intensity that feels like a constant attack,’ (Aux). “Passel” and the grinding title track reductions come on more dubbed out and heavy on the cinemascopics, with “Heliphelion” a tunneling abyssal trip full of rapid-fire half-time beats, sonar bleeps and woozy pads.
Following on Głós’s inaugural Prayers for Escapism, Leipzig’s Talski brings mesmeric 2-tracker, Soothsayer, showing why analog production skills are still at a premium. By limiting himself to minimum machinery, Talski manages to create reduced tracks focused on essentials—especially apparent on “Soothsayer I,” which though stripped back, builds tension, atmo and drive. ‘Soothsayer II’ is more evolved, straight enough for the floor, while fragile and wistful enough to stay with you post-club.
Poland’s Concept Of Thrill has the Storm Over The Baltic Sea EP on his own undescribed concepts out of Warsaw. Barcelona’s Clip with a first for his own imprint Abstract Places Audio, Gebre, title track setting a twilight tone with noisy frequencies chafing the surface, “Boira” mixing deep echoes with glacial ambience, “Miratge” distant layers over booming beats, and “Zud” closing with tense beatless blooms. January sees the return of Von Grall to Berlin’s Midgar with the Following the Rules EP a glorious 9th for the Berlin boutique techno imprint in ‘a glacial excursion into the craters of deep techno,’ with Shaded Explorer‘s Emerald Weapon EP making it a perfect 10.
Bucharest-based Iajov, formerly known as Am.Light, releases Kalpa, a spiral of voodoo pulse’n’atmo mining the mesmerism of Annulled‘s in-house style. France’s Amandra brings a deep ambient techno sound from the underground honed on EPs for Ahrpe (cf. Drachme Tolosate) to Casablanca’s ‘body & mind’ music merchants, Tikita, Principe De Veracruz full of spooky sparse pads drift absorbingly over plasmic rhythms in naturally evolving tracks layered up with percussion and tribal sounds. Lastly, London’s Reflec brings some hefty kinesis to Manchester’s Clergy with his Rite of Passage EP.