Brainbox, and now Unboxed Brain, shows the range that exists within this almost limitless genre. Embrace the factory floor. Pull close to your bosom the clatter and clang of the warehouse.
I was out the other weekend here in Madrid, went to a club night where Daniele Cosmo, of Lux Rec, and me mate Aitor djing. Very good evening of music. Jagged techno, ebm stained mechanics, cold sounds for the disgruntled age we live in.
On the way home I got thinking about that, sounds, and the time we live in. When did techno turn dark? Or turn darker? Although I’ve reveled in this descent, this lapse into blackness, I got to thinking about the other side of the sound. UK. Detroit. The warmer tones, the brighter bars, the future is going to be better than the past angle that many 90s machine musicians adopted. Of course that hopefulness still exists, but with the hate-washing of all, with the casting aside of the vulnerable and the dehumanizing of the other which is all but deafening, it’s understandable why the music has reflected this harder line. Yet do we see ourselves in that reflection?
De:Tuned continues the techno project of the Artificial Intelligence series, of New Electronica, of A.R.T., B12, Red Planet and insert however many more ‘ya like. Brainbox, the imprint’s recent compilation, gathered together the greats of melodic machine music and electronic soul. Yes, there is some thump in there, some muscle, but the harshness of grinding metal is sidelined for something else.
Unboxed Brain is a follow up remix project, tracks from the collection being remade by like-minded artists. Kirk DeGiorgio is the first to take the helm, under his lesser heard Future/Past alias. B12’s “World’s End” is the source material with the UK veteran bolstering beats and adding some colder currents to lure unsuspecting punters to the floor. Mark Broom comes at the same track from a different angle. The bulging basslines are there, as are the echoes of the original melody, but Broom chooses more frigid percussion. This dip into electro brings out the ghostly side of B12’s version, the alien and otherworldly chords morphing into new shapes. And flip is a totally different affair. The Black Dog turn their hand to a personal favorite from Brainbox, Scanner’s “Eros.” The cascading complexity is stripped back, replaced by staccato throb of electricity. Everything is slowed down. Whereas Scanner give an audio vision that is buzzing with life, the Black Dog focus on a moment, an unfurling, that is every bit as absorbing and deep as the original. The only new piece on the 12” comes from The Future Sound of London. “Monolith,” in comparison to “Obollis” on Brainbox, is an unsettling piece. Skeletal synths are buttressed by bass, click and fizz echoing into gaping canyons.
I understand the desire for darker sounds. We’re told we’re living in dark times and maybe a more aggressive style of music can comment on, or emulate, this world we live in. I’m also well aware there’s a fair amount of dancefloor prerogative thrown in. However, I’d hate to think that the oil smeared, assembly line vision of techno is becoming a substitute for its more sensitive sibling. Brainbox, and now Unboxed Brain, shows the range that exists within this almost limitless genre. Embrace the factory floor. Pull close to your bosom the clatter and clang of the warehouse. But don’t forget the “softer” side; there’s more than just history there, there’s a vision of a future which, at the moment, we seem to be longing for.
Unboxed Brain is available on De:Tuned.