Deep from within his Fortress of Machine Funk in New York, Long Island Electrical Systems head Ron Morelli spent most of 2013 injecting his record label with growth hormones and filling its ears with all sorts of confidence boosting pep talks. His efforts were successful – too successful, in fact. After approximately 1900 separate releases by 400 different artists, the sheer, collective weight of all that heavy, black vinyl caused a massive seismic event across the United States: the entire continent shirked and buckled under its burden and sprung up, throwing millions of unreleased tunes into the atmosphere only for them to slam back down again in Russia like a second Tunguska event. Out of the debris, shady Russian characters emerged and began to gather their bounty of snarling lo-fi Techno…
…Or that’s the story which I tell myself when I marvel at the release of another Morelli affiliated record. This Sixth volume of the almost covert and not-at-all LIES sub label, Russian Torrent Versions, introduces A similarly mysterious and anonymous newcomer to the fold. I don’t know much about Karlist (although the name is vaguely familiar,) other than she/he is Russian and probably isn’t label golden-boy Greg Beato under another guise. Although It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, it usually is.
Russian Torrents has remained musically distinct from LIES over its handful of releases. Where LIES have veered wildly from Retro-y Acid, mesmeric lo-fi House to proper thumping Techno and all points in between, Russian Torrent Versions has mined the more (At times) Experimental side of its artists works. The LIES artists releasing on the label have contributed some of their best music of the last few months. For anyone who retained a lingering sense of slight disappointment following Greg Beato’s LIES debut last year ( OK, I admit I’m probably in the minority here. But did you hear his two corkers for Apron?) the various knock outs on RTV more than compensate.
With only this release to go on, its impossible to say whether Karlist is mining a similarly furious seam for his label debut only, or whether it’s indicative of the rest of his work. The A-side, ‘Skins Off’ snarls along with utter determination and contempt for anyone stupid enough to get in the way. At over 140 BMP, it swirls in under a cloud of tribal rhythms that threaten to engulf the entire tune and drag it off to a demented beach party somewhere. It’s an immense work out of explosive drums and surprisingly subtle sub bass – at least on my crappy KRK monitors. There is more than a little Jeff Mills in the way Karlist has tied a simple and genuinely funky groove to the pounding velocity; so often hard, fast Techno forgoes the wiggle in favour of raw oomf. Like Mills, Karlist understands that velocity is no excuse for forgetting the funk.
The B-side, Hexagonal, is a slightly more pedestrian creation in the same way sound is slightly more pedestrian than light. It’s every bit as lithe and dangerous as Skin Off, but comes at you with a tautness and grime that hold centre ground in a wide-screen vision of chaos. This is the same beach party that Skins Off was strutting it’s stuff on, but an hour later, after a dememted Lovecraftian version of Plastikman arrives to wreak havoc. A deep bass throb rolls in and out like the surf of a metal ocean, and percussion rattles and snaps, building and falling across the expansive madness of the kicks. Of the two tracks on offer here, Hexagonal is rougher, more uncertain and possibly less fully formed, but of the two tracks here it also shows promise for where Karlist might go in the future.
It’s tempting to line it up beside other recent examples of New York-centric Noise Techno but I’m not sure this is entirely fair, or accurate. An A side that’s comparatively straight (but funky) hard Techno and a B-side that, for my money, may have more in common with some contemporary British Experimental electronica than anything else, shows welcome desire for Karlist to do his own thing, and also makes him refreshingly hard to categorise. This first release was a fun adventure. I’m looking forward to see where he goes next.